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House OK’s bill excusing mental-health absences for students

January 18, 2022 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky House overwhelmingly passed legislation Tuesday aimed at ensuring that mental health-related absences from school are excused for students.

The bipartisan measure heads to the Senate after clearing the House on a 94-0 vote.

Under the bill, each Kentucky school district’s student attendance policy would have to include provisions for excused absences due to a student’s mental or behavioral health status.

“It’s important because it brings mental health issues to the level of conversation without fear of any type of stigma,” said Republican Rep. Bobby McCool, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Democratic Rep. Lisa Willner, another primary sponsor, called the measure an “important step” in supporting student mental health by making “it explicit that mental health is health.”

The bill makes no changes regarding the number of excused absences that are allowed.

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Three students discussed the bill’s importance at a recent House committee hearing.

They talked about the stress the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for students. The legislation signals that mental health is as important as physical health and would encourage students to talk about mental health issues and get the help they need, they said.

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The legislation is House Bill 44.