Gov JB Pritzker, Democrat of Illinois, signed a bill into law last month that will allow Illinois students to take off up to five days a year as “mental health days” without getting a doctor’s note, NPR reports.
Senate Bill 1577, as enrolled, provides students with an opportunity to make up any missed school work and may bring about a referral to appropriate mental health professionals within the school community following the second “mental health” absence in a given school year.
The law takes effect in January 2022.
“Having this now for all students across the state will be really beneficial, especially with what’s going on with COVID,” NPR quoted State Rep Barbara Hernandez, who co-sponsored the bill, as saying in the Journal-Courier. “Many students feel stressed, and have developed anxiety and depression because they’re not able to see teachers and friends, and may have lower grades due to remote learning.”
When the law takes effect after a period to allow school districts to develop implementation plans, Illinois will join a handful of states that have legally recognized the need for students to take time off to look after their own mental health:
Anecdotal evidence, obtained by nonscientific surveys, suggests that students in Illinois will appreciate the ability to escape the hectic nature of the school day, filled for many students with high-pressure classes, college entrance exam preparation, overbooked extracurricular activities, and jobs, combined possibly with family issues and the aftermath of a year in a pandemic.
Maryland lawmakers tried to pass a similar bill last year, House Bill 461, which passed the House of Delegates 131-1. But the bill never made it out of committee in the Senate. The 2021 session in Maryland witnessed a flurry of make-up Covid legislation, which might have crowded HB 461 out of the schedule in the Senate.