NEW YORK (WKBW) — New York State Senator Brad Hoylman announced Thursday he has introduced legislation that would allow New York students to take mental health days.
According to Hoylman, New York law currently requires schools to develop their own attendance policy and determine which absences are excused and unexcused. The new legislation would establish mental or behavioral health issues as a permitted reason for an absence. This would also require the New York State Education Department to implement the change in law.
According to a recent study [media.jamanetwork.com], the number of children and teenagers treated in America’s emergency rooms for suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts nearly doubled between 2007 and 2015. Here in New York, nearly 4,500 kids were hospitalized for self-harm in 2016 [nyshc.health.ny.gov]. We need to recognize suicide and self-harm among young New Yorkers as the major public health crisis that it is, demolish the stigma around mental health care, and do everything within our power to help kids who are struggling seek treatment. An absence from school should never be a barrier to mental health treatment for a child in New York State. I look forward to working with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and my colleagues in the State Legislature to advance this critical legislation in 2020.”
Similar laws have been enacted in Oregon, Utah and Minnesota.
It is important to bring mental health issues on par with physical health as valid reasons for students’ absences. However, just as schools have nurses to address the physical health needs of students, they need to have the appropriate school-employed mental health professionals, such as school psychologists, to meet the social and emotional needs of students to prevent excessive absences due to these issues.