Should Colorado students get an excused absence from school for mental health issues?

Politics

DENVER (KDVR) – Students in Colorado are allowed excused absences for feeling sick — like having a cold or the flu — but presently, mental health issues are not excusable.

That could soon change.

“There is no difference between a mental illness and a physical illness,” Kari Eckhert, who lost her son to suicide in 2018, said Thursday. “Right now, if your child came to you in the state of Colorado and said, ‘I need to stay home, I’m feeling anxious today,’ you would have to call the school and lie.”

Eckhert joined lawmakers Thursday in support of SB 14, which would allow for excused absences for mental health.

“It’s not fun to go sit in classes and have your teachers call on you when you’re not feeling your best,” Hanna Newman, a junior at Lakewood High School, said in support of the bill.

Some outside the Capitol, however, question whether high school students will take advantage of the opportunity.

“I was in high school not that long ago. I would definitely take advantage of it,” Bonnie Fredrickson said, adding, “I would go and smoke weed and meet with my friends and go to McDonald’s and be like, ‘I’m sad.'”

In response to the criticism, state Sen. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) said the bill will help end the stigma around mental health.

“The policy doesn’t expand or extend the number of absences so, if someone chooses to abuse it, there are procedures and policies already in place,” Fields said.

The bill passed the State Senate Education Committee unanimously Thursday. It will soon be voted on by the full Senate.

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