OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Senate passed legislation on Tuesday to protect the mental health of students.

According to officials, Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, is the principal Senate author of House Bill 1035, a bill that would allow excused absences for students who participate in mental health counseling or occupational therapy if the parent or guardian provides a written request to the school prior to the appointment.

“We’ve seen a significant spike in teen suicide rates since the COVID pandemic, along with other mental health struggles, yet school absences for mental health treatments aren’t currently excused like they are for emergencies or physical injuries and disabilities,” Pemberton said. “We are removing roadblocks that impede students from getting much needed help.” 

Officials say as of right now, students are normally permitted nine absences each semester and are failed on the tenth, unless the absences are excused.

HB 1035 will now return to the House for further consideration where Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, R-Norman, is the House author.