UPDATE (6:40 p.m. PST): San Diego Unified's school board has approved a motion to recommend later start times to the district's superintendent.
SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Parents in San Diego Unified School District want later start times for middle and high school students.
"Early start times are causing our children harm," said Dr. Beth McNeill, a sociologist whose daughter, Hannah, is 13.
She's one of the leaders of Start School Later San Diego, a coalition of parents calling for the change.
Most middle and high schools in SDUSD start at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday night, the school board will discuss moving start times to later in the morning.
"It's a public health issue," said Dr. John Lee Evans, a board member who plans to vote for the later start. "I look at this like vaccinations in terms of like this is something that's really needs to be done."
Supporters say research over the last 20 years shows kids' internal clocks shift as they become teenagers.
"Melatonin, the hormone that causes sleep, doesn't start coursing through their bodies until 11 p.m.," said McNeill. "Waking them up at 6 a.m. to get to school by 7:30 a.m. doesn't give them enough time to get a good night sleep."
Studies show sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, Type II Diabetes, depression, increased car accidents, increased sports injuries and increased incidents of illness.
"I tell my kids to take naps," said Cuezel Lafond, whos son, Marley, is 11 and goes to Roosevelt Middle School.
Lafond supports the later start time, not just for the health benefits, but to give his family more time together.
"If school started later, we could have dinner together, and have breakfast as a family in the morning," he said.
But not all parents agree. Some say it will be too much of a hassle to coordinate with their work schedules. Others say it's another case of schools trying to coddle kids.
"This is training for them," said Dawna Deatrick, the mother of two boys at Mission Bay High School. "They're going to have to get a job. They're going to have to meet society norms at some time, get up on time, go to work."
Evans said those lessons can still be taught, while still allowing kids to get more sleep, as long as the later start time isn't looked at as a cure-all.
"There are other things that need to be done," he said. "We need to teach our students about sleep hygiene, which means not varying hours to a great deal on weekends. The use of electronic devices at night when students are sleeping with their phone under their pillow and texting all night, that's a problem with an earlier or late start time. How much homework is given by teachers is another factor in terms of how much sleep kids get."
A bill in the state Legislature that would have required all middle and high schools in the state to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. passed the Senate, but failed in the Assembly. It may come up again next year.
In the meantime, parents want to make the decision on a local level.
The school board meeting starts at 5 p.m. A "yes" vote Tuesday will only be the start of the process. If the motion passes, the superintendent will start the process of looking into the issue, to see how the later start times can be put into place.
Evans said it may not be a district-wide decision.
"It will be a big discussion because at each school community. The students, the parents and the teachers are all gonna have to come together and at the district level we will consider a change for any particular school if there's a strong consensus at each school if they want to make that change," Evans said.