SDUSD “Mental Health Day” Causes Confusion and Majority Student Absence

Written by William Hale

Less than 50% of students in the San Diego Unified School District attended school during an optional mental health day. But attendance fell even lower for some teachers, with 32 out of 120 fourth-graders showing up to one school in the district, and about 65 of 240 students attending class at Florence Elementary on Friday, according to The San Diego Union Tribune. Naturally, not much teaching occurred with the majority of students absent. 

It might seem like common sense that quality education necessitates an in-class environment, but the San Diego Unified Interim Superintendent Lamont Jackson planned for a “mental health day” the Friday following veterans day. The idea was that students and staff would get a day off to improve their mental health, but parents were outraged with the lack of time available to find a caretaker for their children. Since the announcement was so unexpected, many parents experienced the opposite effect of what the proposed “mental health day” was supposed to achieve. According to the district, 48.7 percent of the about 97,000 students attended school on Friday, but no data was given about staff attendance. 

One parent wrote on the Reopen SDUSD Facebook page, “Dear parents, in the name of ‘mental health’ we at San Diego Unified School District are going to throw a schedule change at you last minute that might cause you tons of stress. Isn’t self care wonderful?” 

Jackson changed his mind in response to the negative feedback, declaring Friday an optional mental health day off for students. This mismanagement led to confusion for teachers, parents and students throughout the school district, and many teachers who did attend school were frustrated with what essentially amounted to teacher-daycare.

Florence Elementary parent Danielle Fam said her 6-year-old son “does so much better when he’s there [in person] and he has that structure.”

Photo Cred: San Diego Unified School District (File)