So, in my political world, I’m a pretty progressive guy. One of the states which I have always watched closely has been Oregon. Oregon has been a progressive success story of epic proportions: From the environment to minimum wage increases to abortion rights to gun control to expanding economic opportunity to all residents, Oregon has led the way. 1
And then, I came across this story: Teens in Oregon can now take mental health days as an excused absence from school. It was done largely to address the stigma which surrounds mental health. According to Debbie Plotnik of Mental Health America:
“The first step to confront this crisis is to reduce the stigma around it. We need to say it’s just as OK to take care for mental health reasons as it is to care for a broken bone or a physical illness.”
The law specifically states that students can have up to five absences in a three month period – and anything more requires a written excuse to the principal.
In response to concerns that the law would make it easier for students to get out of school, Haily Hardcastle, one of the teenagers involved with the lobbying for the law, said, that students would take time off with or without the law – but the new law may encourage students to take their own mental heath more seriously, and would require schools to recognize mental health in their attendance policies.
Oregon’s rate of suicide is 40% higher than the rest of the nation.
I’m…I’m really intrigued by this. It does seem like a lot of days. And I wonder how this effort would interact with other attempts to remedy chronic absences – something that we really struggle with in my home school district of Allentown. But, I believe that Mrs. Hardcastle’s comments are correct – a kid is gonna take a day off if they want to, and if we can encourage them to discuss why, maybe we can help save their life.
Regardless, I’m extremely intrigued, and I’m hoping to pursue this one more. And if you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it!