Top high school starts at 9:15 am

At the best high school in the U.S., according to U.S. Newsrankings, the school day starts at 9:15 a.m. writes Lisa Lewis on Slate. The School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas earned the top spot for the fifth year in a row.

School start times have a “proven impact” on student performance, writes Lewis.

Eight hours a night may be the goal for adults, but teens need between 8.5–9.5 hours, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Unfortunately, few teens meet that minimum: Studies show that two out of three high school students get less than eight hours of sleep, with high school seniors averaging less than seven hours.

Sure, kids could go to bed earlier. But their bodies are set against them: Puberty makes it hard for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. When combined with too-early start times, the result is sleep deprivation.

The AAP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  recommend that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later. Less than 20 percent start that late. The average is 8:03 a.m., writes Lewis, whose son’s high school starts the day at  7:30 a.m.

In the fall, all Seattle high schools and most middle schools will start at 8:45 a.m. Most elementary schools, four K-8 schools and one middle school will start at 7:55 a.m., and the remaining elementary and K-8 schools will begin at 9:35 a.m.

Some parents don’t like late start times at elementary schools. It must be hard on working parents.

 

Stanford trains teen ‘sleep ambassadors’

Stanford University’s Center for Sleep Sciences is training teenagers to be “sleep ambassadors,” reports CBS News. Teens learn the risks of sleep deprivation and spread the word to friends.

Doctors say teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep each night, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, 87 percent of high school students don’t get that much. That impairs their judgment and concentration and can cause anxiety, depression and even thoughts of suicide.

. . . Research has found that when kids become teenagers, their circadian rhythm – or internal biological clock – shifts to a later time, making them biologically inclined to fall asleep about two hours later than they used to.

But waking up early to get to school on time cuts off their deepest and most productive hours of sleep.

Students think the way to learn is to stay up late and cram, said Nora Siegler, 17, a student at Menlo-Atherton High near Stanford. “I think the biggest takeaway from the lecture was how vital sleep is for memory retention and consolidation of memory.”

Some high schools are pushing back start times so students can get more sleep. “Nearly 10% of U.S. high schools currently start before 7:30 a.m., 40% before 8 a.m., and only about 15% after 8:30 a.m.,” writes Terra Ziporyn Snider of Start School Later. Some teens must wake at 5 or 6 a.m. to catch a school bus. Middle and high school students build up a “huge sleep debt every week of the school year.”

When my daughter was in high school, she’d sleep 12 hours or longer on weekends to catch up.

CDC to study teen suicide ‘epidemic’

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will conduct an  epidemiological study of teen suicides in affluent Palo Alto, reports Sharon Noguchi in the San Jose Mercury News.  Four high school students took their own lives in 2014 and 2015 and six killed themselves in 2009 and 2010. Most stepped in front of a train.

Hanna Rosin write about the “Silicon Valley suicides” in the December Atlantic.

Suicide prevention signs are posted by Palo Alto train tracks. Photo: Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News

Suicide prevention signs are posted by Palo Alto train tracks. Photo: Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News

In response to the suicides and concern about student stress, Palo Alto “schools are starting later so that students can get more sleep,” writes Noguchi. “Gunn High School students created a student support group. New fencing rims the Caltrain tracks. The school district and city have offered sessions on parenting and mental health issues. And counseling services have been expanded.”

The CDC conducted an “Epi-Aid” assessment last year in Fairfax County, Virginia, where “85 youths and young adults ages 10 through 24 killed themselves from September 2010 through October 2014,” she reports.

The CDC’s Fairfax study listed a variety of risk factors, including “parents’ pressure for success, parental denial of children’s mental health issues, high counselor-to-student ratios at school, the occasional cruelty of social media and the stigma of mental illness,” writes Noguchi. Media coverage of suicides may have encouraged suicidal behavior.

Parents euthanize brain-dead teen

From The Onion: The parents of a brain-dead 13-year old have decided on euthanasia, saying their daughter is only capable of rolling her eyes, texting and whining about things being “gay.”

“She’s totally unresponsive when we talk to her,” says Caitlin Teagart’s mother. “Her eyes just roll back in her head.”

Rule breakers succeed as entrepreneurs

Smart, rule-breaking teenagers are more likely to become successful entrepreneurs than smart “good kids,” according to new research, reports the Wall Street Journal.

In a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, economists Ross Levine and Yona Rubinstein . . . find that self-employed workers with incorporated businesses were almost three times more likely to engage in illicit and risky activities as youth than were salaried workers. These behaviors include but aren’t limited to shoplifting, marijuana use, playing hooky at school, drug dealing and assault.

In addition, the self-employed with incorporated businesses were more educated, more likely to come from high-earning, two-parent families, were more apt to score higher on learning aptitude tests and exhibit greater self-esteem than other employment types. “Of course, you have to be smart,” says Mr. Levine. “But it’s a unique combination of breaking rules and being smart that helps you become an entrepreneur.”

Risk-takers with high self-esteem also can get in trouble.  Many financial advisers say they “have to keep their entrepreneur clients in check,” according to the Journal.

Boys (and girls) on the bus

Bronx high school kids riding home on the bus on the last day of school are “impressively wise, amazingly clueless, casually mean, and extremely sweet” in The We And The I, writes Alexander Russo.

The movie, which stars teenagers recruited from a Bronx community center rather than actors, “neither scolds nor sentimentalizes its young characters,”  according to the New York Times review. “Instead the film invites viewers, of whatever age, to immerse themselves in the chaos, glee and heartache of a long ride home on the last day of school.”

When cruel is cool

As an eighth grader in 1986, John Cook urged a girl to commit suicide in the underground newspaper he briefly published with two friends. He accused another of promiscuity. He attacked black teachers and classmates with racial slurs. In Confessions of a Teenage Word-Bully, Cook tries to understand why he did it and the effect on his victims.

Ramming Speed was filled with gutter racism, written by me, that turns my stomach to think of today. It directed at two young girls the same sort of highly public, humiliating sexual slander and innuendo that helped drive 15-year-old Phoebe Prince to kill herself in 2010 in Massachusetts, and it literally called on one of those girls to commit suicide. As much as it was an act of defiance against a school administration we perceived as wanting, it was an act of brutal and indefensible bullying against children we knew to be vulnerable. It was wanton adolescent cruelty of the sort that routinely makes headlines today.

The girl urged to commit suicide by “Ramming Speed” did attempt suicide.

Cook was trying to impress the “cool kids,”  writes Emily Bazelon on Slate. The most promising strategies to prevent bullying rely on shifting the social norms, “figuring out how to make meanness socially costly, as opposed to power-enhancing,” she writes.

Bazelon links to a story on “slut shaming” on WNYC’s Radio Rookies. Reporter Temitayo Fagbenle, 16, interviews a friend who boasts of ruining a girl’s reputation by posting sexual photos of her online. He’s reveling in the “coolness points he scored,” writes Bazelon.

Unplugged — and unheated

Superstorm Sandy forced digital kids to unplug, notes a lifestyle piece in the New York Times.

BLANK screens. Cellphones on the fritz. Wii games sitting dormant in darkened rec rooms. For a swath of teenagers and preteens on the East Coast, the power failures that followed Hurricane Sandy last month represented the first time in their young lives that they were totally off the grid, without the ability to text, play Minecraft, video-chat, check Facebook, or send updates to Twitter.

And so on. Some poor teens were forced to talk to their parents.

Unmentioned are thousands of kids and their parents who’ve been freezing in the dark for nearly two weeks. They don’t have running water or toilets that flush. No wonder they think they’ve been forgotten.

Stress + hysteria + teenage girls = epidemic

The Mystery of 18 Twitching Teenagers in Le Roy can be explained by teenage girls expressing stress in physical ways (“conversion disorder”) and mass hysteria, suggests a New York Times Magazine story.  The epidemic started with high-status girls and spread to the less popular. A search for environmental toxins — ones that affect only adolescent girls — fueled the panic.

The Onion: Brain-dead teen to be euthanized

Brain-Dead Teen, Only Capable Of Rolling Eyes And Texting, To Be Euthanized, reports The Onion, in jest.