New Law May Allow Students to Take a Break

Being a student and under the age of 18, it can be hard to find topics and new laws that genuinely pertain to your interest. However, due to the events of COVID and being subjected to school online or as hybrid it is clear to see the struggles that students faced during 2020-2021. 

“The amount of pressure placed on students was seen in the percentage for suicide and seemed to have skyrocketed particularly within the age of young teens,” said Senator Robert Martwick, a Democratic member of the Illinois Senate. Martwick stated on WTTW News that the government’s overall objective is to make students feel comfortable “by removing the stigma that it’s okay to address their mental health and reach out for help.” This new law that is being given to students is known as the “five mental health days.”

The law will take effect in January, according to BBCHS Dean Mrs. Laura Rewerts. “Starting in January 2022, Governor J.B. Pritzker’s new law of implementing five excused mental health days will apply to not only BBCHS but every school in Illinois,” Rewerts said. “The age of this law applies to children from 7 to 17.”    

The idea of taking a mental health day is simple; there is no need for an explanation for this particular unexcused absence. Students can simply say that they will be using one of out their five mental health days.

The five mental health days apply to the entire school year rather than per semester. It is important to know that after your second mental health day you must make contact with either your counselor or social worker to evaluate your current struggles regarding the need to take the first mental health day.

Another important question is if the five mental health days would be separate from the 12 excused absences students can have per semester. As a counterargument this would mean the five additional mental health days would give students no opportunity or way of extra time to mentally cleanse themselves from stress, depression, etc. Additionally, having these five mental health days incorporated into the 12 unexcused absences gives students no option but to use a mental health day, which will still require an evaluation with a social worker or counselor, even if the student feels it is unnecessary.

Overall many students at BBCHS need a chance to reset their nervous system and get out of fight-or-flight mode. It’s a break from the everyday stress of tests, deadlines, and social pressures. Along with this it provides time for rest, reflection, and recharging. However, this is something that has not officially been put in place for next year, according to Rewerts. “The final decisions for implementing this new law in our school system are still being decided and up for question.”

The question then remains whether BBCHS students will have an opportunity to truly take a break or if the mental health days granted by the new law will be considered just an unexcused absence.