USA Today reports that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law last month, which allows for kids ages six to 17 to take absences without a doctor’s note. Those who advocated for the new legislation said the pandemic has been a major stressor for students.
“Having this now for all students across the state will be really beneficial, especially with what’s going on with COVID,” State Rep. Barbara Hernandez, co-sponsored of the bill, told the Journal-Courier. “Many students feel stressed and have developed anxiety and depression because they’re not able to see teachers and friends, and may have lower grades due to remote learning. This will allow them to get the help they need.”
Also included in the bill is a requirement that states if any student takes more than two approved mental health days, they will be referred to school support services. Those who take the mental health days will also not fall behind on missed work.
This type of legislation has already been put into practice in Oregon, where students also get five days off. Maryland’s Montgomery County has also enforced a similar law, where mental health days are excused from school absences. Similar bills are being present in states like Florida and Utah.
“As society continues to increase the importance of addressing mental health as a part of health care, we must ensure that our students have the ability to address issues they are dealing with,” State Sen. Robert Martwick said in a statement after the bill passed the Senate. “This bill removes the stigma and allows students to prioritize their mental health and stability.”