The April 6 article on the benefits of a later school start time for high school teenagers describes a three-year study by Kyla Wahlstrom at the University of Minnesota, who analyzed data from more than 9,000 students at eight high schools in Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming. The overall results showed improvements in attendance, test scores, and grades in math, English, science and social studies. Schools also saw decreases in tardiness, substance abuse, depression and teen car crashes.

The article points out that, years ago, Edina High School was among the first to make the change. Actually, it was nearly 19 years ago that Edina High School pushed back its start time from 7:20 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. With a recommendation from the Start Time Task Force, the Minneapolis school board followed suit two years later.

Advocacy for a later school start time had been active years before the Edina change, but a major boost occurred in September 1993 when the Minneapolis Psychiatric Society introduced a resolution at the annual meeting of the Minnesota Medical Association House of Delegates. The resolution was passed, and the MMA contacted more than 450 school districts in the state asking superintendents to consider pushing back start times to at least 8 a.m.

Media attention and public debate focused on concerns over potential changes in busing schedules, after-school sports, students’ part-time jobs and parents’ work hours. One year later, the MMA, in cooperation with the American Sleep Disorders Association in Rochester, conducted a survey of all state school districts to determine if changes had been made; none had been. Later that year, the principal of Edina High School took his courageous step. Student satisfaction one year later was overwhelmingly positive, with only 8 percent among 132 students surveyed saying they did not like the change.

In the past 19 years, more than 250 schools nationwide have instituted later start times. Minnesota physicians and educators can be proud to have set an early example for positive change.

Dr. Maurice Dysken, Minneapolis

The writer is a past president of the Minnesota Psychiatric Society.

METROPOLITAN COUNCIL

We should not be at ease submitting to this authority

I stand with the four counties aiming at the Metropolitan Council (Twin Cities+Region, April 7). Sound the alarm far and wide! None of the members of the Met Council are elected. They have no accountability to the community. They have way too much power. This group must be disbanded; elected officials should make the decisions that affect us all.

Elizabeth Anderson, Minnetonka

 

HOME STYLES

It’s a personal choice, and we ought not impose preferences

Two April 7 letter writers shared an utter contempt for anyone or anything that did not fit within their concept of acceptable home design. Offenders were labeled as selfish, unbearable, trendy, mindless and tasteless. Apparently, modern technology and design have no rightful place in home construction or remodeling. In this worldview, if you do not have the time, resources and desire to fully restore a home to its original grandeur, you should have no right to purchase the house. And forget about using computer-aided design or efficient lighting to enhance exterior touches.

I am fortunate to live in a neighborhood with a wide variety of home styles and vintages, adorned with myriad colors, lighting and yard plantings. Homeownership allows us to make some very personal decisions about how we choose to live, provided we do so within the codes and regulations of our communities. Thankfully, beauty is still in the eyes of the individual homeowner, not in the hands of these would-be regulators.

Dan Eittreim, Minneapolis

 

PARENTING

Some want government to do it all — no hoax

When I saw the April 6 letter “Why wait until age 3 or 4 to help kids? Try starting before birth,” I anticipated an amusing satire in the spirit of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” Imagine my shock when upon reading the letter, I realized the writer was actually serious. He appears to be advocating that parents give to the state their inherent right and responsibility to raise their own children.

The government’s intrusion into our private lives is not always successful nor welcomed by all citizens. In fact, government has a long history of failures when it overreaches into areas that are better left to individuals. We have constitutionally guaranteed and traditionally protected rights to guide our own children according to the values and parenting style important to the family.

Although I acknowledge that the state has a role to intervene when a child is being neglected and/or abused, I publicly stand in defense of parents’ rights to raise their children.

Judith Anderson, Minnetonka

THE LEGISLATURE

Unconstructive efforts on energy, telephone land lines

As we near the end of the legislative session, the problem with omnibus bills, of any sort, is that they are like a band of arms-bearing rebels executing a coup d’état. Years of study, negotiation, conference hearings and shaping of policy can be undone with a single bill. Minnesota has been on a well-reasoned and negotiated path to protect the future effects on climate by reducing greenhouse emissions and transitioning to renewable-energy standards as well as using resources to develop and encourage energy that is safe. At stake always in these issues is the privatizing of profits now for a few vs. the socializing of costs to the environment later for us all. Namely, heated climate, polluted or disappearing aquifers, viruses and bugs killing farm life and vegetation.

The current omnibus energy bill is such a coup d’état. A lot of setbacks are in store to reverse the direction we’ve been going. This is the energy equivalent of what has also happened in civil rights. Proposed changes will, of course, be favorable for a few and socialize the environmental costs for us all later.

Harry Mueller, Eagan

• • •

Traditional land-line telephones have been an affordable and reliable communications tool — and sometimes lifeline — throughout my 70-year life. My cellphone has provided new communications flexibility, but I needed a land line when I helped my mother transmit her heart pacemaker readings, and my home security system requires a land-line connection to protect my home and family from fire, freezing, intrusion and other risks.

Proposed telecom deregulation (S.F. 736/H.F. 1066) before the Legislature would allow phone companies greater latitude to alter the cost and availability of land-line telephones regardless of the choice or circumstances of customers — especially in remote rural areas. We shouldn’t remove protective regulations for accessibility, price and quality until broadband, wireless and other new technologies can be as reliable and cost-effective as traditional land lines throughout Minnesota. We want telecom progress, but not at the cost of leaving some Minnesotans in telecom “brownfields.”

John Selstad, Minneapolis