Representative Susan Valdés (D – Tampa) has filed legislation that would allow Florida’s K-12 students to receive an excused absence from school for mental health reasons. The bill, HB 315, would allow school districts to incorporate up to one mental health day per semester into their attendance enforcement policies.
Recently, Senator Darryl Rouson (D – St. Petersburg) filed SB 588 in the Florida Senate, the companion legislation to HB 315.
“It is time for us to take mental health as a whole more seriously, and I hope this bill will be an important step in doing just that,” said Representative Valdés. “I am proud to have worked closely with Hillsborough County School Board member Karen Perez, who has seen the need for this type of action firsthand, to develop this legislation. We want to ensure txhat no student suffers in silence, no student falls through the cracks, and no student goes without a quality education in Florida.”
Senator Rouson echoed Representative Valdés’s comments. “We are sending a message to students that their mental health is just as important as their physical health,” said Senator Rouson. “We must instill in our children from an early age that their mental well-being is something to be valued and taken care of. This legislation will help fix the paradigm of stigma regarding mental health for our next generation and let them know that ‘it’s okay to not be okay.’”
If approved, Florida will join Minnesota, Oregon, and Utah as states that have authorized students excused absences for mental health reasons.