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Oregon Students Will Be Able To Take A Mental Health Day Off Thanks To New Bill

A new Oregon law will be the first of its kind when it’ll allow students to take a mental health day off.

According to the Associated Press, the law expands the reasons for excused school absences to include regular sick days as well as mental or behavioral health days.

Students who helped push the measure say the law was crafted to change the stigma around mental health in a state that has some of the highest suicide rates in the U.S. Mental health specialists say it’s one of the first state laws to explicitly mandate schools to treat physical health and mental health equally. Last year, Utah passed a similar law.

The Oregon bill was signed by Gov. Kate Brown last month and it serves as the latest win for youth activists from around the state who were active in politics this year. Along with the mental health initiative, they also lobbied for legislation strengthening gun control and lowering the voting age, both of which didn’t have success.

One 18-year-old activist, Haily Hardcastle, explained the mental health bill, saying they were partially motivated by the tragic Parkland, Florida school shooting and the activism that followed:

“We were inspired by Parkland in the sense that it showed us that young people can totally change the political conversation,” she said. “Just like those movements, this bill is something completely coming from the youth.”

Under state law, students can have up to five absences excused within a three month period. Anything more than this would require a written excuse to the principal.

When it comes to handling pushback from parents who say the new law might coddle kids or encourage them to lie, Hardcastle said kids will take the same days off with or without the new law. However, she said they might be less likely to lie about why they’re missing days if schools formally recognize mental health in their attendance policies.

“Why should we encourage lying to our parents and teachers?” she said. “Being open to adults about our mental health promotes positive dialogue that could help kids get the help they need.”


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