By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
Schools seem to chug along unnoticed. Johnny goes to school and comes home and does his homework and on and on like a spinning wheel. Then one day, a school administrator calls and says Johnny has been referred for an “SST meeting.” The school person then gives a quick explanation about a school “SST team.” Supposedly an SST meeting and plan will help Johnny learn.
Parent Confusion Over What a School SST Is
Meanwhile, you, the parent, sit confused, thinking Johnny is really going to get some help this time, and being thankful that you got the call. But until a parent knows what a student SST meeting or SST team are, it is hard to know for sure how excited we should get.
So, I thought I would clear up what a student SST is, the value of an SST (or lack of value), and what the results should be of a school SST?
An SST is a Student Study Team which may develop an “SST” plan to help a student
What Does SST Stand For?
I have heard the abbreviation student or school SST interpreted different ways over the years, but here are the most common “definitions” of this term:
– Student Study Team
– Student Success Team
– Student Support Team
– Or any plan developed by an SST team (“Please sign the SST”) (the “SST Plan” or “SST”)
– Or, the SST team meeting- (“See you at the SST tomorrow…”)
This SST team is made up of unspecified school staff, such as teachers, administrators, and others working in the school system. They become SST team members when someone, usually a general education teacher, observes a student is having struggles in school with his/her studies, behavior, or otherwise. Then a school SST team meeting may be called.
A student SST is a general education “tool” to try to assist a student, and implement some strategies to avert the student’s apparent decline in school.
What is In a School SST Plan?
A student’s SST Plan may list areas of difficulty, what the parent will do to remedy the school struggles, and minor things the school will do. Responsibility for follow through is usually assigned generally, to e.g. the “teacher.”
Student SSTs Are Not Legally Enforceable
SST plans are great for students that are not in special education or on a 504 (disability accommodations) plan or who don’t want to be labelled “special education.”
However, the bad thing about school SST plans is that they are not enforceable similar to a 504 Plan or IEP (Individualized Education Program– special education plan). In other words, parents cannot go in later and say- “You were supposed to do x, y and z for Johnny per the SST!” and file some claim against the school for a legal remedy.
SST’s are Great in Theory
A student SST is nothing if no one decides to do the steps written in the SST Plan.
So it is important that the school staff drafting the SST are honorable and actually implement the student’s SST Plan. Otherwise it’s not worth anything.
If the school staff are behind an SST plan, things can improve for the student. In that case, if a student needs some additional general education support, an SST can help. For example, if the plan decides Johnny needs to be checked on more frequently than others, and the teacher does this based on the SST, Johnny could benefit greatly.
Students can be helped by SST supports, if they are actually implemented in school
Are SSTs Mandated Prior To Special Education?
I have often seen school SSTs touted as things parents have to endure prior to moving to a 504 or IEP assessment. It is false that an SST is a prerequisite to assessment for special education and statements like this are not legal.
An SST cannot be mandated to occur BEFORE a 504 or IEP assessment proceeds at parent request.
No Legal Timelines for School SSTs
SSTs also have no legal timelines, unless a timeline is specifically outlined in school or district policy. Student SST timeline mandates exist only if a school district binds itself and its schools.
For example, if a school board votes to implement a policy that all student SST meetings will be held X number of days after a parent SST meeting request, that could potentially obligate the school to take timely action. However, in that case, the school district would have to decide to BIND ITSELF, usually in board policy, to meeting student SST timelines.
Student SSTs Are Fantastic If School Staff Implement Them
Student SSTs are basically plans that are great if you have good school staff that will actually follow through. Some schools do, so SSTs are worth a shot. Parents, however, may have to help the school follow through to implement the SST to help little Johnny, or he may be quickly left behind.
Parents should never presume any school SSTs are actually being done at school. SST implementation should always be verified.
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.