Last Updated on March 17, 2021 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
Schools seem to chug along unattended- 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.” They then give a quick explanation about a school “SST team” which will help Johnny while you, the parent, sit confused, thinking that Johnny is really going to get some help this time, and being thankful that you got this call. But until you know what an SST meeting or team are, it is hard to know for sure how excited we should get.
So, I thought I would clear up what an SST is, the value of an SST (or lack of value), and what the results should be of an SST.
Okay- I have heard the abbreviation SST interpreted different ways over the years, but here are the most common “definitions” of this term:
– Student Study Team or their SST Plan or their SST meeting
– Student Success Team or their SST Plan or their SST meeting
This SST team is made up of unspecified school staff, such as teachers, administrators, and others working in that system, who may (but don’t have to) decide to get together at an SST meeting when a general education student is having struggles in school with his/her studies, behavior, or otherwise. This is a general education “tool” to try to assist a student, and implement some strategies to avert the student’s apparent decline in school.
An SST Plan (just called an “SST”) may list areas of difficulty, what the parent will do to help remedy this and minor things the school will do, with responsibility assigned generally to e.g. the “teacher.”
This is great for kids that are not in special education or on a 504 (disability accommodations) plan or who don’t want to be. However, the bad thing about SST plans is that they are not enforceable similar to a 504 or IEP (Individualized Education Program- special education plan). An SST is nothing if no one decides to do the steps outlined. So it is important that the staff drafting the SST are honorable and actually implement it. 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 remedy.
SST plans are good when the staff and school are behind them. In that case, if a student needs some additional general education support, they can help students. 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.
I have often seen SSTs touted as things parents have to endure prior to moving to a 504 or IEP assessment, which is not legal. An SST cannot be mandated to occur BEFORE a 504 of IEP assessment proceeds at parent request.
SSTs also have no legal timelines, unless a timeline is outlined in school or district policy. In fact, any mandates for SSTs would only be found if a school district bound itself and its schools: for example, if a school board votes to implement a policy that all SST meetings will be held X number of days after parent request, that could potentially obligate them. However, in that case, the district would have to BIND ITSELF to do this.
SSTs are basically plans that are great if you have good staff that will actually follow through. Some schools do, so they are worth a shot. Parents, however, may have to help the school follow through to implement the SST to help little Johnny.
Education Attorney for Students
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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.