Illinois amendment provides excused mental health absences for students

With students heading back to school for in-person learning across the state, the Illinois State Senate spent the summer creating a bill that focuses on the mental health and wellbeing of students. On Aug. 6, Pritzker signed an amendment to the Compulsory Attendance Article of the School Code to allow all students between the ages of seven and 17 to take up to five mental health absence days per school year. 

The public act, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, enables students to take a mental health absence from school without requiring a doctor’s note. The passing of this amendment intends to provide students with a designated type of school absence that allows students to prioritize their mental health. 

“As a student currently taking multiple AP classes, going back to school in person, after a full year of remote learning, I believe that the new bill passed in Illinois will be beneficial for students to feel comfortable to address their mental health,” senior Joanna Tafolla said. “It will allow them to feel free to know that it’s alright to feel pressured, it’s alright to feel new to school after remote learning and it will allow students to express themselves rather than feeling like they are alone and cannot speak up.”

The language of the bill explains that after taking the second mental health absence day, the student will be referred to a mental health resource through their school. 

The mental health amendment is a major step to improve student mental health and wellbeing. Currently, ETHS students can take up to eight unexcused absences per semester, but with the passage of this amendment, students will now get an additional five absence days designated to their mental health.