Toni Lyn Salvatore of Cortlandt Manor, NY, was inspired to found a Westchester County chapter of Start School Later when she found out her high-achieving teenage son was falling asleep in class. Here, read about her mission and how you can get involved.
Earlier this year, Toni Lyn Salvatore, M.D., of Cortlandt Manor discovered that her teenage son was getting poor grades in his accelerated math class. Since her son had received excellent grades in math up until that point, Salvatore was shocked. But when she sat down with his teacher, she found out the real problem was that her son was falling asleep in class. “His class begins at 7:30am! My son has to wake up at 6am every morning in order to get to school on time,” Salvatore says. “How many parents have seen the packs of ‘zombies’ entering the high school each morning? The kids look exhausted before they even get into class.”
A few months ago, Salvatore started a petition on Change.org, which garnered almost 100 signatures from parents in the Hendrick Hudson School District. The nonprofit Start School Later noticed her petition and asked Salvatore to start a Westchester County chapter of its organization. “To find out I wasn’t alone was great,” Salvatore says. “I’m interested in discussing why we need to start school later, and why these early start times are detrimental to the health and well being of our children.”
Salvatore, who is a pediatrician at Greenwich Hospital, cites research on the sleep needs of adolescents, who are in the biggest growth spurt period of their lives. “In order to obtain optimum growth, the growth hormone must be stimulated, and it’s stimulated by—of all things—sleep. Adolescents need nine to 10 hours of sleep per night,” she says. “If my son is required to get up at 6am, he has to go to bed between 8pm and 9pm each night. What teenager does that?”
According to research by the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep can also lead to obesity, attention problems, and even drug use.
Salvatore says she hopes other parents will join her to petition their school boards to begin the school day at 8am rather than 7:30am or even earlier. Those interested in learning more about or getting involved with the Start School Later initiative should visit startschoollater.net.
“This is not just about ‘let’s get our way,’” Salvatore says. “This is about our kids’ health.”