2022 brings students of Illinois multiple excused mental health days


Photo By Lillian Bobé

Students attending Kaneland High School work on their various assignments. Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, the masked students utilize their Chromebooks while physically distanced from one another.

     At the beginning of 2022, all students in Illinois will be granted the opportunity to take up to five excused mental health days from school. 

     A bill that was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Aug. 25, 2021, is now a law that will take action starting in January of 2022. Any student who takes a mental health day will not be required to have a doctor’s note. Without the extra step needed for students to take the day off, and teachers not needing to question any students for the note, English teacher Kristen Johson feels quite relieved. 

     “I’m in favor of it. As adults, we take mental health days when we just need that day to unplug and reset, but we have to call in sick. Just like students have to make up a reason to take a needed reset day. Now schools will have to accept mental health days as an excused absence,” Johnson said. 

     Students from ages six to 17 will not be required to have a doctor’s note for an excused day. Students will also not need to complete any school work that is missed on that day.

     Students will be able to use all five mental health days throughout the school year. One student in particular, sophomore Aeryn Hwang, recognizes both the potential positives and negatives this law may hold.  

     “I think they can help the people who need them. But there is a downside that people will take advantage of it and just stay home for the sake of staying home,” Hwang said.

     Since students around the world have been returning to school after the pandemic reached its peak back in 2020 and early 2021, many students are adjusting to the more normal school schedule. Recently, more and more schools have been returning to full-time, in-person instruction. 

     When the Kaneland district first closed its doors due to the pandemic in early 2020, students were still required to attend school virtually. One way they solved this issue was with technology. Currently, Kaneland has been using both traditional and digital methods to advance teaching and learning to students. 

     “School has its ups and downs. Some of the ups are that you have a real classroom and you can interact with your classmates and your teacher. While online, that was the aspect that I missed and was crucial for me personally because I work better around people and not just my computer,” Hwang said. “I personally enjoy school in general, but I have a hard time balancing school and activities. But, for the most part, I enjoy school.” 

     Because Kaneland has many different clubs and afterschool activities, students may be required to spend time after school on that designated activity. The time frames can vary depending on what a student may be participating in. 

     Hwang is currently participating in a sport, and it affects her at school. 

     “I would say that I am a pretty busy person because I was in a sport (golf). Since my sport has ended, I have a lot more free time. When I was in my sport, I had little to no free time to fit in my homework and a lot of my other regular tasks that I needed to get done,” Hwang said. “In addition, some days I couldn’t get my homework done because I was so tired from being somewhere all the time. For example, school and practice. Also, I would have to get my work done early in the morning just to get it all done.” 

     Despite this law affecting every student in Illinois, some students do not know of the existence of this change, or are very unfamiliar with it. Sophomore Benjamin Broz had not yet heard about this upcoming law. 

     “I did not know about this law, but I think it will be helpful for a lot of students and will give them a chance to breathe. I also believe that a school’s environment heavily affects the student and their view on education. Schools that provide a helpful and enjoyable environment lead to better mental health and more effective learning,” Broz said.