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Minnesota bill would regulate school start times

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Busses leave after morning drop-off.
Busses leave St. Paul's Ramsey Middle School after morning drop-off on October 31, 2016.
Solvejg Wastvedt | MPR News

Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill to eliminate early school start times.

The legislation would prevent middle and high schools from starting earlier than 8:30 a.m. and would forbid elementary student bus pick-ups before 7 a.m.

Supporters of the bill argue early school start times lead to problems like car accidents, depression and lower school performance for teenagers.

"This is a health issue for our children and a public safety issue for all Minnesotans. Sleep deprivation is not only hurting our kids but costing our state money in additional health care costs and special education costs,", said the bill's author, Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka.

Wayzata parent Diane Hayden described a positive change in her daughter when Wayzata High School moved its start time to 8:20 a.m. last year.

"I could cry the changes have been so dramatic ... she's much more energetic in the morning, she has an appetite, she eats breakfast," Hayden said.

Critics of the bill say local school boards should determine start times.

"This is a decision that is fundamental to a local community, and you get input from your citizens ... and this doesn't allow for that," Minnesota School Boards Association director Kirk Schneidawind said.

If passed, the change would take effect in the 2021 school year.