Walk the walk: we have mental health days now, but is it enough?

In 2019, The Blue & Gold (B&G) published an article titled “Talk the talk, walk the walk: TAS needs mental health days” where reporter and previous editor-in-chief Charlotte Lee (‘20) highlighted the importance of permitting students to take mental health days. 


School policy now allows students to take days off when necessary, but are these regulations working, and do students know of this new privilege? In this edition, the B&G hopes to examine how students feel regarding mental health days at TAS. 


It is no secret that being a TAS student is strenuous work. If you are not being crushed by the weight of your honors or AP/IB courses, then you are probably stressed out by upcoming SAT exams or the ongoing college application process. Regardless, it is needless to say that most students are very busy, and as a result, often spread thin from their workload. Sometimes, the best way to combat pressure is to take mental health days, but how accessible are these days off, and how comfortable do students feel taking a mental health day?


Oftentimes, students feel persuaded by faculty and administrators to avoid taking mental health days. “Since my sophomore year, I’ve been told that skipping school, even if it is for just a couple of periods, leaves a bad impression,” student Gemma Chang (‘21) said. “I don’t take days off usually unless I am really sick or I really need to mentally.” 


Since absences need to be communicated by parents or guardians of students, students need to be able to express their struggles to them. For Gemma, she is able to take days off if she really needs to due to her close bond with her mom. “I talk to my mom a lot about mental health, but I know a lot of my friends don’t feel comfortable communicating that to their parents,” Gemma said. Oftentimes, parents deem “mental health days” as an excuse for students to skip school. 

“Ultimately, students must have a satisfactory record of attendance in order to receive credit for a course—which is a minimum attendance of 85 percent,” Dr. Jill Fagen (she/her), Upper School Associative Principal, said. Strictly speaking, each semester students are only allowed to miss six classes for each of their courses or they risk losing credit. “However, there is room for flexibility in situations involving special circumstances, health or other factors impacting attendance, and each case is reviewed individually,” Dr. Fagen said. More detailed rules can be found on page 20 of the Upper School student handbook.