Teen led charge for later high school start times

COLUMBIA, Mo 3/23/14 (Beat Byte) --  Backed with new research that supports her efforts, a Columbia teen who urged the School Board to start high school later rather than earlier has made the New York Times.

A Rock Bridge High sophomore when the Columbia School Board announced plans to start high school at 7:20 am last year, Jilly Dos Santos, 17, turned into a "sleep activist," the Times reported last week.  Embracing a cherished Columbia tradition, Dos Santos rallied her classmates and joined with overworked parents already struggling with a 7:50 am start time. 

The effort worked.  One year ago this month, the Columbia School Board approved a 9:00 am start time for high schools.   The anniversary has seen several national news organizations pick up Dos Santos' story, from the Huffington Post to St. Louis Post-Dispatch

High schools across the country have followed Dos Santos' lead, while new research from the University of Minnesota found that later school start times led to higher attendance, fewer auto wrecks, and better test scores.

As the New York Times explains, Dos Santos started her sleep activism as a class project to "find a contemporary topic that ignites your passion and do something about it."  The Rock Bridge student chose early start times, which if approved would have had her awakening at 6 am.
Independent since age 9 -- the year her mother died -- Dos Santos took what she had learned at voter turnout drives and the student newspaper, and used social media to urge students and parents "to have a say in your school district's decisions on school start times!"

She circulated fliers, started an online petition, shared research about the positive benefits of teen sleep, and testified before the School Board, which went her way with a 6-1 vote.

"Jilly kicked it over the edge for us," Columbia school superintendent Chris Belcher told the Times.