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***Oregon: Students to get "mental health day" excused absences from school

July 21, 2019, KOAA, Colorado Springs, CO: Feeling blue? Oregon students can take ‘mental health days’ https://www.koaa.com/news/national-world-news/feeling-blue-oregon-students-can-take-mental-health-days SALEM, Oregon (AP) — Oregon will allow students to take “mental health days” just as they would sick days, expanding the reasons for excused school absences to include mental or behavioral health under a new law that experts say is one of the first of its kind in the U.S. But don’t call it coddling. The students behind the measure say it’s meant to change the stigma around mental health in a state that has some of the United States’ highest suicide rates. Mental health experts say it is one of the first state laws to explicitly instruct schools to treat mental health and physical health equally, and it comes at a time educators are increasingly considering the emotional health of students. Utah passed a similar law last year. Oregon’s bill, signed by Gov. Kate Brown last month, also represents one of the few wins for youth activists from around the state who were unusually active at the Capitol this year. Along with expanded mental health services, they lobbied for legislation to strengthen gun control and lower the voting age, both of which failed. … Debbie Plotnik, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Mental Health America, said implementing the idea in schools was important step in challenging the way society approaches mental health issues. “The first step to confront this crisis is to reduce the stigma around it,” Plotnik said. “We need to say it’s just as OK to take care for mental health reasons as it is to care for a broken bone or a physical illness.” Suicide is Oregon’s second leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 34, according to data from the state Health Authority. Nearly 17% of eighth-graders reported seriously contemplating taking their lives within the past 12 months. And it’s not just an Oregon problem, although the state does have a suicide rate 40% higher than the national average. The national suicide rate has also been on the rise and recently hit a 50-year high, climbing more than 30% since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…. Under state law, students can have up to five absences excused in a three month period. Anything more requires a written excuse to the principal. Despite little public opposition from lawmakers, Hardcastle said she’s received pushback from some parents who say the legislation wasn’t necessary, as students can already take mental health days by lying or pretending to be sick. Other opponents have said the law will encourage students to find more excuses to miss school in a state that also suffers from one of the worst absenteeism rates in the nation. More than 1 in 6 children missed at least 10% of school days in the 2015-2016 school year, according to state data. …