A built-in study hall period would help all students at BHS

A good education is a fundamental right that all students deserve. However, due to differences in race, gender, and socioeconomic status (SES), not all students have access to the resources they need to achieve academic success. Creating a built-in study hall period at Berkeley High School would help make the school system more equitable, and greatly improve student grades and mental health.

According to a study conducted by Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School in Montebello, California, a mandatory study hall raises students’ GPAs and increases the number of honor students. Within a few months of implementing a mandatory study hall, the school found that the overall GPA increased by about half a point, and the number of honor students went from 32 percent to 50 percent. If BHS had a built-in study hall period available to students, these results could be expected to occur at BHS, too.

Additionally, a study hall period would help create a more equitable school system. According to the American Psychological Association, children from families with low SES enter high school with literary skills that are five grades below those of high-income students and are 8.8 percent more likely to drop out of school. This is partially because students from low SES families have less access to resources like tutors, computers, or even a quiet place to study and do homework. The implementation of a study hall would allow students time during the school day, with full access to the school’s resources, just to complete their work. “(A study hall) could definitely help by simply allowing more time to get work done … that I would otherwise have less time to do,” said Lily Collins, a sophomore at BHS.

The last few decades have seen a dramatic increase in mental health issues. Between 2005 and 2017, the number of teenagers who reported symptoms of major depression increased by 52 percent. The number of young adults who reported the same went up by 63 percent from 2009 to 2017. In part, this dramatic change is due to societal norms that tell children and teens to measure their self-worth through academic achievement.

When society tells students that they must be successful in school in order to have worth, pressure and stress levels increase, and mental health rapidly worsens. If BHS were to implement a study hall period, it would allow students more time to complete their work, thus lessening the amount of stress caused by too many assignments at once. Less stress in schools would give students more time to take care of themselves, including getting more sleep. Since sleep is critical to our mental and physical health, and getting more sleep can even make certain psychiatric disorders less severe, this would greatly help the overall mental health of BHS students.

While BHS does allow seniors to have a free first or last period, which gives them five elective credits, this doesn’t always look great on college applications. According to Tiffany Liew, a BHS counselor, colleges prefer that students take six periods of academic or elective classes. “There’s no right or wrong answer since every college is different in terms of what they look for, but … colleges may perceive free periods differently and some colleges may not like it,” said Liew.

BHS must implement a built-in study hall. This would result in a schedule that wouldn’t negatively affect college applications and would improve students’ mental health. By setting aside extra time for students’ work, stress will lessen, grades will rise, and students will benefit.