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Students statewide may now take up to five mental health days per year without a doctor’s note, according to a new law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week.
Senate Bill 1577 amends the compulsory attendance clause of the state school code to include mental and behavioral health as valid reasons to miss school. If a student misses class for an excused reason, they will be given the opportunity to make up school work, according to the text of the law.
Among several sponsors of the bill was state Rep. Barbara Hernandez, an Aurora Democrat.
“It’s critical that schools are offering support to students who struggle with their mental health,” she said in a statement. “Just as we would allow a student with a cold or fever to stay home from school, students should be able to have the same treatment for days where they need a break for their mental health.”
The bill, which also encourages schools to connect students with mental health resources, passed the Illinois House and Senate unanimously.
Mental health among school-age children declined during the pandemic, but it also has been declining for years due to high-stress school environments, cyberbullying and other factors, according to multiple studies. Suicide rates among adolescents have also been on the rise.
In additional to Illinois, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Virginia have all passed similar laws in recent years, according to The New York Times.