On July 1st 2019, Oregon established a law permitting students the ability to take five mental health days in a three-month period. These mental health days are in the same vein as a family emergency, a medical appointment, or a religious observance, being that they all count as excused absences as long as a parent or guardian contacts the attendance office beforehand through a signed note or a phone call.
According to the most recent student handbook, mental and behavioral health days are not their own category, and count alongside any other excused absences. In addition, it is also a student’s responsibility to make up any work that he or she missed in their time absent.
“I think this law was passed to recognize it as an illness that can happen to the mind as well as an illness that can happen to the body,” said Assistant Principal Terrance Scholth who is most familiar with attendance related matters. “We want people to be healthy [in mind] and in the body.”
“Mental health is a paramount issue that is happening in our society today,” said Assistant Principal Zachary Ramberg as he described whether or not this could be exploited by students. “This law is researched based, and I think if you have a policy without meaning, people could take advantage of it.”
“The whole purpose behind the bill was to shine a light to mental health. With bullying, depression, [and] teen suicide, legislators wanted to build support around mental health,” explained Schloth.
With the recent placement of this regulation, this may in fact be one of the first steps Oregon takes to try and help any teenagers coping with their own mental health.
“Be there for support, encouraging them,” Schloth continued as he described ways students could help support others struggling with mental health “Obviously, telling an adult [and] telling a counselor; there’s a lot of people that can help. Last year we had a couple of clubs that could help do that. We’ve done stuff like that in the past, and we’ll continue it this year.”