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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of adolescents reporting poor mental health is on the rise. A 2022 CDC report showed that 37% of high school students in 2021 reported that they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported feeling constantly sad or hopeless in the last year. State lawmakers around the country have taken notice of this trend and have proposed legislation to allow students to take up to a certain number of mental health days. At least 12 states let public school students take mental health days, with more states considering legislation to allow the same.

Michigan Bills Allowing Student Mental Health Days

Lawmakers in Michigan introduced House Bill 4389 and Senate Bill 0029 related to excused mental health days. Under the bills, which had not advanced as of January 2024, schools would be allowed to consider up to five absences for mental or behavioral health without providing a medical note for the absence. The bills would require schools to allow students to make up any work they missed during an excused mental or behavioral health absence.

Ohio Pending Legislation Allowing Student Mental Health Days

In February 2023, Ohio lawmakers introduced House Bill 38. The legislation, which had not advanced as of January 2024, would allow school districts to allow K-12 students to take up to three mental health days as excused absences from school. Under the bill, a mental health day would not need a physician or similar health professional’s certification of the student’s condition.

The bill would also allow school districts to establish an in-school mental health program for students to attend in place of their normal classes.

Pennsylvania House Education Committee Advances Legislation Requiring Student Mental Health Days

On January 18, 2024, the House Education Committee passed House Bill 1519 along party lines. The bill, if enacted, would require school districts to excuse a student from attendance for up to three mental health days each school year. The bill defines a ‘mental health day’ as a day to allow a student to “attain care, rest or treatment to address” various conditions or behaviors, including ADHD, anxiety, OCD, autism, substance abuse disorder, self-harm, learning, and developmental disabilities, and any other condition or behavior determined by a physician or mental health professional.

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