Bills Target Mental Health And School Attendance
Students could soon be able to miss school for mental health days without a doctor’s note. Two bills that are currently making their way through the legislature address health and student attendance.
One of the bills would add mental health as a valid reason to miss school. Republican Rep. Mike Winder is sponsoring the bill. During a House Education Committee meeting, he said mental health is something that needs to be addressed.
“And here in the state of Utah, where we're sixth in the nation for youth suicides, anything we can do to save a life is important,” he said. “Especially in this pandemic, where our kids are under some pressures unlike ever before, it’s important.”
Winder went on to explain mental illness was added to the list of valid excuses to miss school. But he says mental health is different from mental illness.
“Some people, many people have mental illnesses, but not all people,” Winder said. “But we all have mental health. Just like we all have physical health, it's important that we maintain our physical health, from hitting the breaking point, just like it's important, we maintain our mental health from hitting the breaking point.”
The bill passed the committee with a favorable recommendation Friday and will head to the House floor.
Another bill presented during the committee meeting would allow children to miss school without a doctor’s note for mental or physical health reasons.
Republican Representative Adam Robertson, who is sponsoring the bill, said parents are responsible for deciding their children’s education.
“We allow for a lot of parental discretion on where they go to school,” Robertson said. “Whether they're homeschooled, charter school, public school, various sorts, a traditional public school... We have lots of options there for parents and we enshrine those parents' rights first and foremost.”
He said parents should be able to make calls on their children’s health without needing a doctor’s verification.
Because doctor’s visits can be pricey, he says vulnerable students see more of the impacts of not being able to produce a note.
“If we have situations in our schools, that would require a doctor's note for sickness, we can cause very high expenses to be incurred by families,” he said. “Particularly this hurts most those who are most vulnerable, those who have less access to medical care, those who have high expenses from medical care.”
Robertson said the bill would also save students a trip to the doctor for issues that have already been diagnosed like migraines and anxiety.
The bill unanimously passed the committee, and now waits approval from the House Floor.
The Legislative Report on KPCW is made possible, in part, by the law firm of Hoggan Lee Hutchinson at HLHParkCity.com.