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Bozeman school officials react to other states allowing mental health days

Mental health days not offered in Montana schools
Posted: 8:38 PM, Aug 13, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-13 22:38:50-04
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BOZEMAN — In July, a law went into effect in Oregon that gives students five mental health days over a three month period.

“Anything that can reduce stigma and open up access to support, is a good thing,” said Bozeman School District Director of Special Education Chad Berg.

Reducing stigma is exactly what Berg thinks this new law will do for the state of Oregon. He can see how the law could have negative effects, such as a child being excused several times and not wanting to return to school, but for the most part sees this as a good thing.

“One key for building safe schools is to make sure we are addressing all of the needs of our students, including social and emotional needs. Any opportunity that we have to open that dialogue, reduce stigma and then match the right level of support, helps students get that care and services they need,” Berg said.

While official mental health days for students aren’t happening in Montana, Bozeman parents are thinking this might not be a bad idea.

Many parents already allow their children to take that time if they need it.

Taking a sick day doesn’t always mean physical illness, which the Bozeman School district agrees with.

“We don’t distinguish between physical illnesses and mental health illnesses. We give really broad discretion to families in terms of deciding when to excuse their child,” Berg said.

Elementary and middle school students are considered excessively absent if they miss more than ten days in a school year, and for high school students it’s eight or more days.