Health and Wellness

74% of parents think schools should allow mental health days—these 12 states already do

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There are many factors for parents to consider when choosing a school or school district for their kids like the quality of the education, access to social opportunities, and location. It can be a difficult decision to make.

And if your kid's mental health is a top priority for your family, you might have added one more consideration to your list: Does this school allow mental health days for its students?

According to a new study by Verywell Mind and Parents, 60% of parents of children ages 8 to 17 say the pandemic has at least somewhat affected their child's mental health. Additionally, over a third of parents observed mood and behavior changes in their children, with 37% noticing their child having a harder time socializing.

And nearly half of parents polled listed school as the top stressor for their tween or teen:

  • School — 47%
  • Feeling misunderstood — 40%
  • Friendships — 39%
  • Covid-19/Pandemic — 38%
  • Identity — 31%
  • Social media — 31%

74% of parents surveyed think schools should offer mental health days for students.

And 77% of parents who have let their child take a mental health day on their own, feel the day had a positive impact. Instead of a typical school day, children spent the day talking about their feelings, spending time in nature or just relaxing.

And as a response to this mental health crisis, more and more states have begun proposing and enacting legislation that allows mental health days for students in public schools.

States like Washington and California recognize mental health as a legitimate reason to miss a day of school. And as off January 2022, public schools in Illinois must allow students to take up to five mental health days per year.

Similar bills have been proposed in New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

12 states that allow mental health days for students

  1. Washington: A new law passed in June 2022 allows students to use mental or behavioral health reasons as a valid excuse for an absence.
  2. California: Governor Gavin Newsom signed a Senate bill into law in 2021 that allows students to miss school for mental or behavioral health concerns and treats the absences as a missed school day. 
  3. Illinois: Schools in the state must now allow students to take up to five mental health days each year, starting January 1, 2022.
  4. Virginia: In 2019, the general assembly of Virginia passed a bill that allows students to claim mental health as a valid excuse for an absence.
  5. Maine: Governor Janet Mills signed a bill in 2020 that allows students to allot days off from school for mental and behavioral health reasons.
  6. Connecticut: All students are allowed to take two mental health days from school per year as long as the days aren't consecutive, according to a bill passed in 2021.
  7. Oregon: The state passed a law in 2019 that allows students to take up to five days off from school within a three-month period, including mental health days and typical sick days.
  8. Arizona: Depending on the school district, students may be allowed to take mental health days similarly to how they would take a sick day, which began in February 2021.
  9. Nevada: Students in the state, ages 7-18, can miss a school day for mental health reasons if they provide a note from a mental or behavioral health professional, which started in 2021.
  10. Utah: The state began observing mental or behavioral health as a valid reason for an excused absence for all students in May 2021.
  11. Kentucky: Mental health days are now viewed as excused absences, after Governor Beshear signed a new bill in April 2022.
  12. Colorado: In 2020, school district attendance requirements in the state were altered to include a policy that allows excused absences for behavioral health concerns, which gives students the opportunity to take mental health days.

There are 30 states do not recognize mental health days as excused absences. That list includes North Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia, and Missouri.

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