Should mental health be a valid reason for missing school? Many say yes.

Montgomery County leaders are taking steps to add mental health to the list of valid reasons to be absent from school, saying that the move is especially important after the inordinate toll of the pandemic.

The change would begin in the fall, when students in Montgomery County are expected to return to full-day in-person classes five days a week. A majority of students in the state’s largest school system have been learning virtually during the past 14 months.

“Student mental health has been a challenge this year, through the pandemic, and we believe it is a wise decision,” Patricia O’Neill, a school board member, said as she introduced the change at a meeting Tuesday.

Experts and advocates have warned for months of a simmering mental health crisis as students across the nation have struggled with depression, anxiety, isolation, family hardships, sick relatives and plunging grades since schools closed in March of 2020.

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