BOSTON (CBS) — A group of education and pediatric health activists spent three hours at the Statehouse Tuesday asking state officials to start school later in the day.

The group, Start School Later‘s delivered a petition asking the legislature and governor to move the start time to 8:30 a.m. for Massachusetts middle and high school students.

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The Start School Later group and State Representative Paul McMurtry, D-11th Norfolk, lobby on the Statehouse steps. (Photo credit: Start School Later)

The group cites the American Association of Pediatrics, which said in 2014 that the start time for most students, around 7:30 a.m., disrupts sleep for teens, who experience a later shift in their sleep cycle during puberty.

They also say starting school later will improve student performance.

Start School Later-Massachusetts chapter leader Mary Hamaker says studies show starting school later is better for everyone.

“The Legislature has a opportunity to implement policy based on 20+ years of research that experts believe is one of the most effective ways to improve academic outcomes – give adolescents more sleep,” Hamaker said.

“Schools used to start after 8:00 a.m., but as we began solving grown-up problems in the 60’s and 70’s, school districts implemented earlier start times,” Hamaker said. “The science on adolescent sleep requirements and the harmful effects of early school start time – including increased rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, car accidents, sports injuries, and more – are now well known.”

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She adds that later start times are extremely beneficial to students from poorer families.

“Children from economically and ethnically diverse populations are particularly adversely affected by early start times, and studies show that they benefit even more from moving start times later,” she said. “We urgently need state action to set minimum standard for school start time, just as we have set minimum standards for nutrition and exercise in schools.”

“All Massachusetts schools could enjoy similar success,” the group’s petition reads. “Statewide support in the form of legislation will help Massachusetts communities mobilize to meet the goal of healthier school start times–and will help coordinate across-town scheduling for academic, athletic, and other competitions and events, which otherwise can be a logistical roadblock.”

Their petition has nearly 5,000 signatures. The group presented their petition

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Doug Cope reports

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