FRANKFORT, KY (January 18, 2022) — The Kentucky House of Representatives wants public school students to know their mental health matters.
House Bill 44 allows absences for mental health reasons to qualify as an excused absence. The bipartisan measure cleared the House floor by a unanimous vote on Tuesday.
Rep. Bobby McCool, R-Van Lear, and Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, are the primary sponsors of HB 44. The pair worked on the bill with three high school students over the summer.
“It’s important because it brings mental health issues to the level of conversation without fear of any type of stigma,” McCool said on the House floor.
Both McCool and Willner described the bill as a simple change to current statute.
“(HB 44) requires local school districts to include in their attendance policies provisions for excused absences for student mental or behavioral health status,” Willner said. “It doesn’t add extra days for absences, but simply makes it explicit that mental health is health.”
According to Willner, she and McCool have not encountered any opposition to the bill. She added that it has the support of school counselors, psychologists, teacher groups and other mental health and education related groups in the Commonwealth.
Both McCool and Willner hope the bill helps reduce the stigma of mental health, and that it lets Kentucky’s students know that their elected representatives care about them and their mental health.
The House voted 94-0 to approve HB 44. It will now go to the Senate for consideration.