A bill sponsored by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-4th), whose district includes large parts of the West Side, would require students to receive more than vaccines and dental exams before entering school each year.
The proposal, SB 565, would require students to also undergo social and emotional screenings as part of school entry exams.
The bill, which passed the Senate last month, is now in the House, where it’s been referred to Rules Committee. In an April 22 written statement, Lightford noted that the legislation would allow children with mental health issues to be diagnosed and treated sooner.
Lightford’s bill would amend the School Code to mandate screenings that are age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate for students who would need to present proof that they were examined by a licensed physician before Oct. 15 of each school year.
Other specific rules, such as which grades of students would be required to get the screenings, must be “developed in conjunction with a statewide organization representing school boards, a statewide organization representing pediatricians, and a statewide organization representing children’s mental health experts and, at a minimum, recommend the use of a validated screening tool,” according to the bill’s language.
“We see the effects of mental illness and its stigma every day,” Lightford said in her statement. “Attacking these issues during a child’s developmental stages will foster a better educational environment and provide a clearer way of looking at mental health issues. Ignoring these issues only delays the child’s development and can have negative consequences throughout his or her life.”