12 states that allow mental health days for children in schools

There are many factors that parents should consider when choosing a school or school district for their children, such as quality of education, access to social opportunities, and location. It can be hard to decide.

And if your child’s mental health is a top priority for your family, you may have added another consideration to your list: Does this school allow mental health days for its students?

According to a new survey by Verywell Mind and Parents, 60% of parents of children aged 8 to 17 say the pandemic has at least somewhat affected their child’s mental health. In addition, over a third of parents have seen changes in their children’s mood and behaviour, with 37% noticing that their child has found it harder to socialise.

And nearly half of parents surveyed cited school as the biggest stressor for their teen or teenager:

  • school — 47%
  • I feel misunderstood — 40%
  • Friendships — 39%
  • Covid-19/pandemic — 38%
  • Identity — 31%
  • Social media — 31%

77% of parents who have allowed their child to take mental health days believe they have had a positive impact. Instead of a typical school day, the children spent the day talking about their feelings, spending time in nature or just relaxing.

And in response to this mental health crisis, more and more states have begun to propose and pass legislation allowing for mental health days for students in public schools.

States like Washington and California recognize mental health as a legal reason to miss a day of school. And starting in January 2022, Illinois public schools must allow students to take up to five mental health days a year.

Similar bills have been proposed in New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

12 states that allow mental health days for students

  1. Washington: A new law passed in June 2022 allows students to use mental or behavioral reasons as a valid excuse for an absence.
  2. California: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a Senate bill in 2021 that allows students to miss school due to mental or behavioral health issues and treats the absences as a missed school day.
  3. Illinois: Schools in the state must now allow students to take up to five mental health days each year, starting Jan. 1, 2022.
  4. Virginia: In 2019, the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill that would allow students to claim mental health as a valid excuse for an absence.
  5. Maine: Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill in 2020 that allows students to take days off from school for mental and behavioral health reasons.
  6. Connecticut: All students have the right to take two mental health days from school per year, as long as the days are not consecutive, under a bill passed in 2021.
  7. Oregon: The state passed a law in 2019 that allows students to take up to five days off from school within a three-month period, including mental health days and typical sick days.
  8. Arizona: Depending on the school district, students may be allowed to take mental health days similar to how they would take a sick day starting in February 2021.
  9. Nevada: In-state students ages 7 to 18 can miss a day of school for mental health reasons if they provide a note from a mental or behavioral health professional beginning in 2021.
  10. Utah: The state began looking at mental or behavioral health as a valid reason for an excused absence for all students in May 2021.
  11. Kentucky: Mental health days are now considered excused absences after Governor Beshear signed a new bill in April 2022.
  12. Colorado: In 2020, school district attendance requirements in the state were changed to include a policy that allows for excused absences due to behavioral health issues, allowing students to take mental health days.

74% of parents surveyed believe schools should offer mental health days for students, yet more than 30 states still do not recognize them as excused absences.

The list includes North Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia and Missouri.

Get involved now: Be smarter about your money and your career with our weekly newsletter

Do not miss:

Leave a Comment