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Lamar Schools say mental health related counseling no longer an excused absence

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A letter tells parents in Lamar, Missouri that mental health related counseling is no longer an excused school absence.

The notice is drawing different reactions from parents, and counselors say it could be a tough problem to solve.

The districts motivation is a startling statistic - 62 students are pulled from school every week for about 90 minutes - some twice a week.

Counselors tell principals they try to schedule the therapy sessions during non-core classes, but that means students sometimes routinely miss art, music and PE.  In high school those credits are equally important for graduation.

One parent says she's on a waiting list for her child to even get time with counselors and scheduling all kids after school is impossible.

The superintendent and principals say it's not that mental health issues aren't as important but the frequency of absences is hurting students educationally.

"School attendance, there is a direct relationship between that and students academic success and it's showing up because many of these students do have D's and F's - they have attendance problems," says Lamar Superintendent Dennis Wilson.

"I think it's crazy, I mean your brain needs treatment just as much as your teeth or your heart, or your health conditions - your brain, if it's not working properly and you don't get the right therapy how can you expect these children to function properly in school?" says Jessica Parker, a Lamar parent.

Parents of students in Lamar are getting a notice on Tuesday that beginning April 15th professional counseling sessions need to be scheduled outside the school day.  If students are taken out of school, they will be give a partial absence.  Over time, as that accumulates to too many days, students could be reported for truancy.

At least one counselor says he will adjust his schedule, adding more evening hours to accommodate families but says that can be difficult for counselors with families of their own.

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