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Arlington Parents Seek Later School Start Times

ARLINGTON (CBS 11 NEWS) - Debbie Moore's 15-year-old daughter yawns and is sluggish. She goes to Martin High School in Arlington. Moore said that her daughter is constantly tired, and she has noticed. "She's irritable. She's moody," said Moore. "I have been dredging her going to school so early, for many years."

The first bell at Martin High School rings at 7:35 a.m. and, Moore said, with her daughter's extracurricular activities and AP classes, she just doesn't get enough sleep. "For a student who gets up maybe in the 6 o'clock hour, to get 9 hours of sleep, they would have to be in bed and asleep by 9:00 p.m.," said Moore.

Her freshman is in bed by 9:30 p.m. the latest, she said, but often can't go to sleep for another hour, and she said that it's not because she's online.

The teen has even cut two of her AP classes, "so she would have less homework and we could get her in bed in a decent hour," said Moore.

Cheryl Till, who also has a freshman at Martin, can relate. "When my son began at Martin, after about two weeks, she was already so sleep deprived," explained Till. "He sometimes has after-school sports that keeps him out until 10:00 or 11:00 at night, then he has a pretty heavy homework schedule."

The National Sleep Foundation says that teenagers should get at least eight and a half, if not nine hours, of sleep a night. Both Moore and Till have done their homework and they are pushing for the later school start times, possibly 8:00 a.m. or later. They've even started a petition and will be meeting with district officials on Thursday. "Their melatonin is released much later for most teens. They cannot go to bed before 11:00 p.m. regardless of when you get them in bed," explained Moore.

The Arlington Independent School District is looking at possible changes, but that won't be until the spring. "We stagger our school start times to maximize the efficient use of our transportation -- our school buses," explained Dr. Marcelo Cavazos, Arlington ISD Interim Superintendent. "I think 7:35 is early for students to engage in instruction. Also, you have to balance that with other needs that students have. There are extracurricular activities after school that this type of time schedule does help facilitate," he added. "Also, for students who are employed, this time slot helps facilitate those activities as well."

The Arlington ISD elementary school start time is 8:20 a.m. and middle schools start at 8:55 a.m.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention less than eight hours of sleep on an average night can be associated with smoking, drinking and sex.

Click here to download a Bureau of Labor Statistics study about how teenagers use their time.

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