Lawmakers approve student sleep study

Maryland lawmakers approved legislation Friday that would require state health officials to conduct a study on the sleep needs of students and the experiences of school systems that have shifted the hours of their school days.

The bill requires that the study include recommendations about whether public schools in the state should adopt a policy of starting classes at 8 a.m. or later. It comes at a time when such ideas are under consideration in Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Howard counties.

Under the bill, the state study would review the science of children’s sleep needs, looking at benefits of sufficient rest and how sleep deprivation affects academic performance.

Advocates for later school start times point to research showing sleep deprivation is linked to such problems as depression, obesity and car crashes.

The state study, to be done by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Office of Public Health Services, is to be completed by year’s end.

— Donna St. George

Insanity to be claimed in killings of children

An attorney for one of two Montgomery County women accused of fatally stabbing two children in a bloody exorcism said in court Friday that he would pursue an insanity defense, known in Maryland as “not criminally responsible.”

The defendant, Monifa Sanford, 21, is scheduled to be tried on first-degree murder charges in August. She is accused of killing the two children Jan. 17 inside a Germantown townhouse.

The children’s mother, Zakieya Avery, faces the same charges in the deaths of the children, ages 18 months and 2 years. Their older siblings — ages 5 and 8 — survived knife wounds.

Under Maryland law, people can be deemed not criminally responsible if they essentially didn’t understand that what they were doing was wrong.

— Dan Morse