Students and counselors in Springfield respond to Oregon’s mental health absences

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Andrew Brown, an incoming freshman at Central High School in Springfield, doesn’t quite agree with the “mental health absence” format recently adopted by Oregon school districts.

STORY: Schools in Oregon allow ‘mental health days’ to students

“Isolating yourself from people who want to help you at school would be defeating the purpose of taking these sick days,” he told Ozarks First reporter, David Chasanov. “You should be using these days to go and get help and try and stay in school as much as possible because school is really important.”

Counselors in Brown’s school district feel similarly unsure about the new excused absence approved up in Oregon.

After speaking with Brian Vega, a summer school counselor with Springfield Public Schools, Chasanov reports SPS has systems in place that would permit students an excused absence to deal with mental health.

Programs like the SPS’s “504 process”, Vega says, would be harder to take advantage of.

“Through the 504 process,” Vega explained, “if a student has mental health needs, where they do need a day off of school, they get that and it is not counted against them towards their attendance.”

But where, in Oregon, mental health absences are taken as easy as any other sick day, taking a 504-sanctioned absence requires going through an approval process.

“It’s not just any student any time saying ‘I’m depressed today. I need a day off.’ It’s after a meeting with school personnel and the family [of the student] to determine if it’s appropriate or not.”

One thing Vega does appreciate about the changes up in Oregon: It’s spotlighting the importance on students’ mental health.

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