A multi-year effort to change the start time of Zionsville Community High School (ZCHS) in Indiana has finally ended, and ended the right way – in victory. The campaign began in March of 2009 when ZCHS student Erica Park presented research to her AP English class outlining the physical and psychological benefits of allowing students to sleep later and start school later. Like most high schools, their start time was created entirely by adults and the students affected by it (and hurt by it) had very little say. NYRA’s chapter at the school, the Zionsville Student Rights Union (ZSRU), were determined to fix this problem and determined to have a say. Inspired by the research, ZSRU leaders Steve Ross and Abby Llorico organized a campaign to change their school’s start time.
Chapter leaders met with the school administration, the school board, athletic directors, transportation boards and other stake holders about their Sleep to Succeed plan. All were impressed with the research and arguments put forward by ZSRU, but many obstacles stood in their way. Changing the start time affects bus schedules for elementary schools and middle schools in the district as well as schedules for all sports teams in their division. The chapter built up support for the change from the student body and from the teachers. The process was long and difficult, and after Steve Ross graduated, leadership of the chapter and the campaign fell to Abby Llorico who spearheaded efforts through all of the 2009-2010 school year. Finally, at a school board meeting this spring, the Zionsville school board voted unanimously in favor of pushing back the start time from 7:30 am to 8:15 am.
This is a tremendous victory for ZSRU and for youth rights advocates everywhere. ZSRU is once again leading the way in demonstrating that with the facts on our side and a huge amount of persistence anything can be accomplished. Zionsville Community High School is one of very few schools in the country to move their start time back and it happened entirely due to the efforts of NYRA’s dedicated local chapter. This success story exemplifies all that is good about this movement. Young people were harmed by a system created exclusively by adults, and through their own hard work and ingenuity fixed that system to the benefit of all involved. If you are interested in putting together a similar campaign at your school, please check out the ZSRU website and contact them for more information about the campaign.