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Assemblymember Connolly Updates High School Graduation Requirements for Students Struggling with Mental or Physical Health

AB 2251 authorizes school districts to exempt students with absences related to struggles with physical or mental health from additional graduation requirements beyond those prescribed by the state

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, Assemblymember Damon Connolly (D-San Rafael) introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 2251, which explicitly authorizes school districts to exempt students from additional graduation requirements and allow those students to meet state requirements for high school graduation. Students who suffer from mental or physical illnesses that require them to miss substantial amounts of school should be afforded a pathway to graduate from high school on time.

“Students struggling with their mental or physical health should not be penalized for unavoidable lapses in attendance, and these students should be afforded a manageable pathway to graduate high school with their peers,” said Assemblymember Damon Connolly (D-San Rafael). “While it is important for students to reach state mandated benchmarks for graduation, we should not delay their life milestones because of circumstances outside their control.”

“I have witnessed some students grapple with extenuating circumstances and issues beyond their control, thus hindering their ability to attend school for a specific, finite period of time,” said Kessa Early, Principal of Alternative Education at Novato Unified School District. “If students facing physical injuries or navigating mental and emotional challenges have already met the state's criteria for graduation, a district's graduation requirements should not constrain them.”

The number of adolescents reporting poor mental health is increasing, and schools are critical to supporting students and families. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2021, more than 42% of students felt persistently sad or hopeless, and nearly 30% of students experienced poor mental health. Further, in 2021 more than 22% of students seriously considered attempting suicide, and 10% of students did attempt suicide. Students with poor mental health may struggle with further health and behavioral risks, including increased risk of drug use or violence. Further, research from the CDC shows that students with chronic health conditions may miss school more often than others, which may result in an impact on academic performance. Students suffering from mental or physical illnesses that result in frequent absence from school should not be academically penalized for the status of their mental or physical health.

AB 2251 clarifies that the governing board of a school district is expressly authorized to exempt pupils from its additional coursework requirements in order to receive a diploma of graduation from high school for students. Especially if they are suffering from mental or physical illnesses that require them to miss substantial amounts of school.

AB 2251 is currently waiting to be assigned to a policy committee.


Assemblymember Connolly represents the entirety of Marin County and Southern Sonoma County