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Student Mental Health Day Regs Are Proposed

State Sen. Brian Hoylman, D-Manhattan, has proposed legislation that would allow high school students to miss school for mental or behavioral health.

The legislation, S.6687, was introduced in the state Senate recently. There is no companion bill yet in the state Assembly. The legislation amends the state Education Law to make mental health-related absences a legal absence, though the state Education Commissioner would have to establish rules and guidelines for their use.

The senator said in his legislative justification for the bill that his proposal is modeled after a similar law in the state of Oregon. That law, signed in July by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, allows students to take up to five mental health days every three months, with schools allowed to create their own schedules.

Students can also make up any tests they may have missed on those days off. Utah passed a similar law in 2018.

Hoylman also cited a 2017 Centers for Disease Control report that found suicide was the second-leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.

According to the report, 17.2% of high school students had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, an increase from 13.8% in 2009. The report also found that 31.5% of high school students had experienced periods of persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in th e past year, an increase from 26.1% in 2009.

“It is crucial that New York recognize suicide and self-harm among our youth 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 to seek treatment,” Hoylman wrote. “We must acknowledge that mental health issues can be just as disruptive and damaging as physical illness or injury. This legislation would remove barriers that cause kids to hide their mental health struggles, and encourage honest conversations between kids, their parents, and school faculty about mental health.”

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