Student Forums Split On ATVs, Oppose Later Classes by Cynthia Thielen

Wednesday – June 22, 2011 – Midweek


When my staff and I took our annual Legislative Roadshow to five Wind-ward schools this spring, we met numerous students who were not only inspirational but offered creative and thoughtful solutions to issues considered during this past legislative session.

The roadshow is an interactive program featuring a mock committee hearing in which students prepare and present individual testimony on current legislation. This year we chose HB18, which prohibits minors from operating, riding or being propelled on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and SB933, which would require Hawaii’s public high schools to start classes no earlier than 9 a.m.

I highly commend the students and their teachers for their research on and careful consideration of these important issues which directly impact young people in our state. Although both bills were deferred this session, they may be resurrected next year.

Regarding the permitted age of ATV operators, students were split in their opinion of the bill. Proponents believed such a law would reduce ATV-related accidents and deaths. They expressed concerns about younger, immature riders not having the judgment and training to safely operate the vehicles and thought more regulation would help decrease negative environmental impacts. Those opposing HB18 said that teens should continue to be allowed to drive ATVs, especially those working on family farms. They pointed out that this law could negatively impact small businesses that sell ATVs, and that parents should be responsible for their minors’ operation of ATVs. Both groups agreed that specialized ATV driver training, helmets, and prohibiting teens driving them with passengers would be helpful amendments.

Knowing how teenagers value their sleep, I was surprised that more students did not support high school starting later in the morning. Opponents of SB933 said a later start time wouldn’t necessarily mean that students slept longer, and even might encourage them to stay up later. Scheduling conflicts for parents, less time for daylight after-school activities, jobs and transportation conflicts were all presented as arguments against changing school starting times. Testifiers also argued that students needed to get in the habit of arriving early and on time to school in order to be prepared for the “real world” and college.

Proponents believed starting school later would ensure teens get enough sleep, resulting in better academic and athletic performance; improved moods and social behavior, reduced absences, an easier commute for district-exemption students, more time for family responsibilities and homework, and more rest for teachers as well.

As my staff and I navigate through the highs and lows of each session, our meetings with students and their teachers are always refreshing and rewarding. We are so proud of our Windward students and look forward to them becoming future leaders committed to making our world the very best it can be!

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