12 states that allow mental health days for children in schools

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

And if your child’s mental health is a top priority for your family, you may 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 aged 8 to 17 say the pandemic has at least somewhat affected their child’s mental health. Additionally, over a third of parents observed changes in their children’s mood and behavior, with 37% noticing that their child had more difficulty socializing.

And nearly half of the parents surveyed ranked school as the top stressor for their young children or teens:

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

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

And in response to this mental health crisis, more and more states are beginning to propose and pass legislation that allows for 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 starting in 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 health or behavioral reasons as a valid excuse for an absence.
  2. California: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a Senate bill in 2021 that allows students to miss school for mental health or behavioral concerns and treats the absences as a missed day of school.
  3. Illinois: Schools in the state must now allow students to take up to five mental health days each year, starting Jan. 1, 2022.
  4. Virginia: In 2019, the Virginia general assembly 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 take days off school for mental health and behavioral reasons.
  6. CONNECTICUT: All students are allowed to take two mental health days from school per year as long as the days are not consecutive, under a bill passed in 2021.
  7. Oregon: The state passed a law in 2019 that allows students to take up to five days off 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 similar 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 day of school for mental health reasons if they provide a note from a mental health or behavioral professional, which began in 2021.
  10. Utah: The state began looking at 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 seen as excused absences after Governor Beshear signed a new bill into law in April 2022.
  12. Colorado: In 2020, school district attendance requirements in the state were changed to include a policy that allows excused absences for behavioral health concerns, which gives students the opportunity to take mental health days.

74% of parents surveyed think schools should offer mental health days for students and yet over 30 states still do not recognize them as excused absences.

The list includes North Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia and Missouri.

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