UPDATED 2:49 PM PT – Monday, August 23, 2021
Following more than a year of online schooling and increased mental health issues among children and young adults, several states have taken action to protect mental health. The state of Kentucky has been the latest to see students spearhead efforts to bring awareness to the high stress and mental health crisis circulating in schools today.
One Kentucky high school student went on to explain, “I know a lot of kids, high schoolers and teenagers were having a little bit of mental health problems with COVID-19 and not being able to see their friends.”
Many schools across the country have established specific guidelines, which laid out how many days of school a child was allowed to miss. A bipartisan proposal put forward by Rep. Bobby McCool (R-Ky.) and Rep. Lisa Willner (D-Ky.) argued local school districts’ attendance policies should include a provision allowing excused absences due to mental or behavioral health issues.
“Bipartisan is critical. It’s not Democrat or Republican,” McCool asserted. “It’s about mental health and the wellbeing of our people.”
The best legislative solutions come from ppl closest to the problem.
— Lisa Willner (@lgwillner) August 20, 2021
However, the bill didn’t specify how districts should address mental health in their policies. That legislation was filed for the session beginning in January.
In just the last two years, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Oregon and Virginia all passed such legislation. Some states such as Utah have followed their lead.
In March, Utah unanimously passed their version of this practice. Utah Rep. Mike Winder (R) gave credit to today’s youth by saying although they were tough, sometimes they needed the flexibility to be able to be tough.
“Mental illness is in the code, but there is a difference with mental health. All of us have mental health just like we all have physical health,” he stated. “Not all of us are diagnosed with mental illness, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need a day sometimes when we are at the breaking point.”
The pandemic has tested children’s mental health like never before. And as they head #BackToSchool, students’ feelings are complicated.
Learn how parents can promote children’s mental wellness as they return to the classroom: https://t.co/eRSazJMxlm
— UNICEF USA (@UNICEFUSA) August 23, 2021
Once again, the legislations genesis was sparked by someone outside of politics, Winder’s daughter. Many lawmakers argued while students could easily come up for a reason for an excused absence, such as a cold or cough, they believed children should be able to speak up and destigmatize mental health.
However, there has been a debate over how these days should be used and unless expressly specified by state or school districts, could be broadly interpreted.