New bill in Florida aims at including mental health in excused absences

DORAL, FL – A new bill proposed by State House members aims at allowing mental health providers and counselors to write notes for excused absences.

House Bill 289 was discussed during the Florida 2022 legislative session and the House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee unanimously approved the measure that now needs to obtain a green light from two more panels before it could be considered by the full House.

The bill has already begun its committee review process and if Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, signs it into law it will take effect on July 1.

If passed, the bill would positively impact students struggling with mental health problems that sometimes need to take a day off because of these issues. Currently, only physicians are allowed to write notes for illnesses or conditions that fall into the excused absences category.

The proposed legislation implies a small but significant change to the existing statutes by modifying the requirement of authorizing a “licensed practicing physician” to write notes to also include “other licensed professional as determined by school board policy.”

Current Florida law allows for excused absences from school to be determined by individual school districts. However, unexcused absences are decided by state statutes.

In practice, the bill would let mental health illnesses or concerns to qualify as an excused absence if it meets revised rules from the individual students’ school district.

In Miami-Dade Schools, excused absences include illnesses related with physical health, a medical appointment, a death in the family, observance of a religious holiday or service, an school-sponsored event or educational enrichment activity, subpoena by law enforcement agency or mandatory court appearance, outdoor suspensions and  other   individual   student   absences   beyond   the   control   of   the   parent/guardian or student.

 

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