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  • Autumn Quiles, LCSW

Florida HB 315

Florida's House Bill 315 was recently filed and has been thrown into the mainstream media because of its proposal that students be allowed an excused "mental health day" per semester. The opinions have started flying about students, schools and mental health.

I believe that every day should be a "mental health day." An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If we help our kids take time, every day, to process and "be okay with" what their day has given them, then they won't need to take an entire day off to ground themselves.

I also believe that, for kids who are fighting against emotional health issues, one day will never be enough. They could use two days... or a week... or the entire month... But, our world continues to revolve, regardless of our kids' emotional health. The teachers still show up. The social drama still spins. The business of education continues. It is vital that our kids learn how to manage their emotional health, while simultaneously managing their school responsibilities. We do this juggling as adults; we need to teach our kids how to do this too.

Speaking of adults... what are the implications of this bill for parents? If my child needs a "mental health day" does that mean I need to stay at home with them? Can I do that, given my work responsibilities? Or should I let my child tend to their mental health alone, with no supervision? I have found that parents who are in-tune to their kids' needs have been able to make the executive decision about instituting a mental health day for their kids, when necessary, and they have also been able to manage the school's expectations regarding attendance laws.

The most important part of HB 315 is the rest of the bill- the part that is not being highlighted by the media, that is crucial to supporting our kids in this community. It gives direction to schools regarding how to manage and address excessive absenteeism. Right now, though we document a child's school attendance, the schools can do little more than announce "this kid is not coming to class" to support the child- and this announcement of the obvious is not particularly helpful. We know that kids will excessive absences are Not Okay. HB 315 directs the schools to explore how to help these kids- how to help them Be Okay- so they can get back to the very important business of learning. This component of HB 315 is worth reviewing and, in my opinion, warrants further discussion.

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