When Jilly Dos Santos found out that her high school was considering changing its start time to 7:20 a.m., she decided to take action. The teenager petitioned her school board to start school later, and ultimately won. She shared her story on HuffPost Live.
Dos Santos was already having problems waking up for the high school's 7:58 a.m. start time, and was shocked to hear that her alarm would have to go off even earlier. "I was just devastated," she said to host Nancy Redd. "I mean, I was late to class pretty much every day. I was on a first-name basis with the attendance secretary, so I knew if we started at 7:20 that things would be bad. I'm not a bad kid, I just can't wake up early."
Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom explained that Dos Santos' inability to wake up was a normal biological occurrence called the sleep-wake shift. "Sleep researchers have found that teenagers are basically unable to fall asleep before 10:45 or 11, due to the melatonin secretion that occurs then. And they basically are unable to wake up until about 8:00 in the morning. So Jilly is just a normal teenager."
The then sophomore had heard about the school board's plan five days before its meeting to discuss the change, and used that time to organize a grassroots petition.
"I started a Facebook group and a Twitter page. And I started #startschoollater or #starttime rather." She also worked with teachers and other students to make posters advocating her position.
At the school board meeting, Dos Santos received an outpouring of support from parents and teachers. Given how many people were behind her, she realized that her petition might win. "Once I kind of heard [the arguments from other parents] and [saw] there were other students there with me, I thought, 'alright, maybe this is possible.'"
The school board made the final decision at the March school board meeting -- high school would start at 8:55 a.m.
"I think it meant a lot that the school board was listening to students and taking us seriously," Dos Santos said, adding, "It was really empowering just to have that training we get in school be able to be applied to the real world."