HALL MONITOR: “NO” on Requiring Mental Health Assessments for Athletic Competition

Name: Virginia Senate Bill 395

Summary: Requires mental health assessments for participation on school sports teams

Status: In Senate Committee on Education and Health

Sponsors: Senator Stella Pekarsky

Bill Breakdown:

The bill would require all students who wish to participate or try out for a sports team at their elementary, middle, or high school to undergo a mental health evaluation by a licensed professional.

Why does PDE Action oppose this bill? 

The Covid pandemic took a huge toll on students’ academic performance and mental health. It is vital to support students by making counseling and other mental health services available if necessary for a student. PDE Action believes, however, that parents, not the government, should be in the driver’s seat regarding decisions about their child’s mental health and wellbeing.

Studies show that participation in sports is good for children’s mental health. The American Psychological Association reports that regular exercise is linked to lower levels of depression and stress with improved attention, behavior, and self-image. Likewise, the Cleveland Clinic reports that team sports also link to lower rates of depression, while teaching life skills, social skills, and confidence.

Schools and government officials should create hurdles for students to participate in athletic activities in the name of mental health, especially when such activities have a positive effect on the short- and long-term mental wellbeing of children. Parents should decide what is best for their children’s mental health.