HB 116: Excused Absence Without a Doctor’s Note
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Three years ago, we advocated for a change to the law that would allow parents to excuse their children from government schools for mental illness. Prior to that time, state law referred to “illness,” but did not specify what type—and many school districts interpreted this as referring only to physical health.
Over the years, we have met with many families where students experiencing mental health crises were also subjected to punitive truancy proceedings for failure to attend their classes, adding to their troubles and complicating their recovery. This legal reform was a welcome change.
However, some schools require parents to have a doctor’s note before excusing the child pursuant to state law. Thus, parents are prohibited from attesting to the health status of their child and must pay money to get a permission slip from a doctor before the school will excuse the absence, despite state law not requiring this step.
This bill helps protect parental rights, as schools should be subordinate to and supportive of the parents as they help educate and care for their children. Allowing parents to excuse their children from school for a valid absence should not require them to pay a medical professional to validate their decision.