On Beacon Hill: SEVERAL BILLS HEARD BY THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE:

By Bob Katzen

Here are three proposals that were the subject of a hearing by the Education Committee last week:

MENTAL HEALTH OF STUDENTS (H 572) – Adds mental health of students to the current list of physical illnesses that qualify as a legitimate reason for a student’s absence from school. Rep. Carol Doherty (D-Taunton) sponsored the legislation that was initiated and backed by the Class of 2021 at Oliver Ames High School in Easton.

“By addressing this crisis among our youth through this simple act of adding mental health as an acceptable absence presents us with an opportunity to better the lives of young people,” said Doherty. “We cannot push this issue aside leaving at risk students to fend for themselves. Conceptualized pre-pandemic H 572 shows how far sighted the Oliver Ames students were in their ability to perceive the significance of mental health needs among their peers.”

SUNSCREEN LOTION (S 309) – Allows any person, including students, parents and school personnel to possess and use a topical sunscreen product without a physician’s note or prescription while on school property or at a school-related event or activity to avoid overexposure to the sun if the product is regulated by the Federal Food and Drug Administration for over-the-counter use.

“Melanoma is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in children aged 15-19,” said Sponsor Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “Routine application of sunscreen has proven to significantly reduce young people’s risk of developing this cancer. Sunscreen is essential to protecting the health of adolescents, so it makes good sense that sunscreen is accessible in schools and can be applied without the undue burden of obtaining a prescription.”

STUDY AIR TEMPERATURES IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS (S 379) – Creates a commission to study the regulation of minimum and maximum allowable air temperatures in public school classrooms and facilities, as well as any relevant statistics on the number of air-conditioned public schools in Massachusetts, and the impact of indoor air quality on children.

“I filed this bill to create a commission charged with developing an understanding of the actual temperature conditions of classrooms,” said sponsor Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “There are regular instances of classroom temperatures hitting the extreme highs and lows depending on the time of year. It is important that we are providing our children with the optimal setting to learn.”

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