State Senator Robert Martwick

SPRINGFIELD - State Senator Robert Martwick’s (D-Chicago) legislation that would provide students with five excused absence days for mental health per school year passed the Illinois Senate Thursday.

“As society continues to increase the importance of addressing mental health as a part of health care, we must ensure that our students have the ability to address issues they are dealing with,” Martwick said. “This bill removes the stigma and allows students to prioritize their mental health and stability.”

Currently, state law requires that any child who is physically or mentally unable to attend school must be granted temporary absence from a physician or principal in order for the student to receive excused time off from school.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, suicidal thoughts among teens ages 18 or 19 increased 46% from 2008 to 2017, and suicide attempts among people ages 22 or 23 have doubled. A study conducted in 2019 showed that the rate of suicide increased by 56% from 2007 to 2017 among people ages 10 to 24. Suicide, in recent years, has become the second-most-common cause of death among teens and young adults. It has overtaken homicides and is outpaced only by accidents.

Martwick’s legislation provides that a public school student shall be granted up to five days of excused absences for mental or behavioral health. No medical note would be needed, and the student would have to be provided the opportunity to make up any school work missed during the absence. Mental health absences would be included as a reason for an excused absence and not in addition to the maximum number of excused absences.

“Many students struggle with mental health, and this year especially, we need to help facilitate and maintain positive mental health practices,” Martwick said. “This pandemic has taken a toll on all of us, and I think it’s proven to many people how important it is to take mental health seriously.”

The Senate has passed Senate Bill 1577, and the legislation now moves to the Illinois House for further consideration.