Senate proposal looks to add mental health to curriculum, implement student mental health council

Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 6:46 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - As mental illness is on the rise around the country, legislation headed to the Senate floor looks to implement mental health curriculum for students in Illinois public schools.

As written, the law would require teaching children how to access mental health resources during their health classes. Those courses currently teach physical, sexual health and addiction. This proposal would add mental health resources to that curriculum.

“What we’re doing here is bringing youth voices from the state to this work in a broader context,” Bill sponsor Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) said.

The legislation would also implement a student mental health council, that would require recent high school graduates and current students from across the state to be members of the council. The council would meet at least four times a year under the leadership of the Illinois State Board of Education.

Currently, however, ISBE is opposed to the bill. ISBE Executive Director of Legislative Affairs Amanda Elliot said the board is working on an amendment with Laurie Children’s Hospital to connect the program to an already-existing mental health initiative by the state.

“I think his intention is great in trying to make sure students have access and are an active part of the discussion about mental health in schools and that students have access to services,” she said.

The amendment is forthcoming, according to Elliot. Simmons (D-Chicago) is confident the board will remove their opposition once the amendment is made.

Another bill discussed by the Senate Education Committee would allow teacher mental health days as a legitimate reason to take a sick day.

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