Montgomery County closer to making mental wellness a reason to miss school

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Mental wellness may soon be added to the list of reasons Montgomery County students can miss a day of school in Maryland.

“If you don’t feel well, you don’t feel well, whether that’s mind, body or soul,” said board member Rebecca Smondrowski during discussion.

She pointed out that this year, mental health issues may be more pronounced than the physical for many.

“Mental health professionals have been telling us all year that the pandemic has had a devastating effect on the mental health and wellness of our young people, even our staff, and we may not know the ripple effects of that for years,” said Smondrowski.

So the board is recommending the interim superintendent expand the school regulations surrounding excused absences to include well being in addition to illness.

For board member Karla Silvestre, this would fill an important need for days like when her daughter said she was just too stressed to go to school.

“When I wrote that note, I said, what do I say, she’s not sick. With this amplified language I could say she’s not well today and that would be in fitting with what’s allowed,” Silvestre said.

Student council member Nick Asante, who introduced the recommendation last year, says the “well being” wording is important.

“I think sometimes you don’t want to say the reason I was out of school for a mental health day was because I was sick,” Asana said. “I think just having that well being category, the wording, I think, goes a long way for our students and it works to de-stigmatize mental illness and the way people view it.”

The board approved the recommendation unanimously and wants the change to take place in time for students to return to full time classes in the fall.

If the change takes effect, parents will still need to write a note to the school for those well being days in order for the absence to be excused.

Michelle Murillo

Michelle Murillo has been a part of the WTOP family since 2014. She started her career in Central Florida before working in radio in New York City and Philadelphia.

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