California has become the first state in the nation to pass legislation that forces schools to open later to improve their students' academic performance.

On Sunday, October 13, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation prohibiting middle schools from opening earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

"The science shows that teenage students who start their day later increase their academic performance, attendance and overall health," Newsom said in a statement. "Importantly, the law allows three years for schools and school districts to plan and implement these changes."

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Sometimes we can get caught up in a seemingly feel-good story and miss that it might have a dark side. An article I wrote recently praising a middle school teacher's "baggage activity" is a perfect, personal example of this. I saw that the post had been shared widely, looked at the activity through my own lens as a former teacher and current parent of teens, and missed the red flags that those trained in trauma saw in it.

The viral post, shared by a veteran teacher, explained how she had her students write down the emotional baggage they were carrying around, wad up the papers, and toss them across the room. Each student then picked up a random paper and read it to the class. Students could share if they wrote it or remain anonymous. The teacher described how the students were moved by the activity, and how she felt it helped them develop empathy for one another. The bag of wadded papers hangs by the door to remind students "they are not alone, they are loved, and we have each other's back."

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Update from the author: I wrote a follow-up to this article sharing a trauma-informed perspective of the activity. You can read it here.

Karen Loewe has been teaching for 22 years. Clearly, all of that experience has given her a solid bead on what her students really need.

The middle school English teacher from Oklahoma shared an activity she did with her students for the first day of school on Facebook and it's gone insanely viral. In just three days, her post has already been shared more than 335,000 times.

What has caught people's attention is something we all have in common—emotional baggage. We live in an era of rising mental health awareness, but also increased social pressures to appear as if you have all of your sh*t together. For kids in the turbulent middle school years, whose their bodies, minds, and spirits are growing at breakneck pace, having a place to share their emotional turmoil can be incredibly helpful. But many kids don't have a safe, supportive place to do that.

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A couple years ago, Brendon Scholl was having a terrifying night.

They can't recall many of the details. "Most of it is just a big blur," says the now-17-year-old, who is transgender and non-binary, and uses they/them pronouns.

But they do remember crying hysterically, rattled by an inescapable sense of loneliness and an isolating anxiety that'd often accompany them to bed, when their friends were asleep and unreachable by text.

"I was in a really bad place," Scholl says. "I was kind of freaking out ... I was having a really hard time with [the idea that] people didn't want me around."



Brendon Scholl's aunt happens to be singer Jennifer Lopez, who bragged about Scholl's achievements on Instagram in July 2017. Photo via Jennifer Lopez/Instagram.

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