Student Study Team: A Needed Process or a Stall Tactic?

by | Dec 1, 2022

You’ve requested an IEP assessment for special education for your student in writing. Instead of sending you a special education assessment plan or a Prior Written Notice (PWN) denying the assessment within 15 days of your request, the school schedules a Student Study Team (SST) meeting. Is this right? Read more to find out.

What is a Student Study Team?

Student Study Teams (SSTs) go by many names: Student Assessment Teams, Student Success Teams, etc. But they all have one thing in common: They bring together members of your student’s school team to discuss concerns with your student’s educational performance or mental health. Either the school or you as the parent can request a SST meeting when you have concerns with your child, especially if your concerns are not being addressed.

Who are the members of the SST team?

Typically, the SST team will consist of yourself, your student’s teacher, a site administrator and a school psychologist. Although the SST is not a special education process, a school psychologist may attend if you have requested an IEP or special education assessment. A special education teacher may also be present to assist with the brainstorming process. If there are concerns with articulation, social skills or language, a speech language pathologist (SLP) may attend. Similarly, an occupational therapist (OT) may attend if there are concerns with your student’s handwriting or sensory processing.

What is the SST Process in Education?

The SST process in education is intended to be informal: the team gathers and documents:

  • Student strengths
  • Areas of concern
  • Current grades
  • Family history that might be impacting your student’s functioning
  • Any concerns with ADHD, Autism, Learning Disabilities, etc.
  • Strategies the school has already implemented and their results
  • Strategies the school is proposing to implement over the course of 30-60 days

After the school has the opportunity to implement and gather data as a result of the SST process, the SST team will usually meet again to review the information and determine next steps, if any.

What is a SST vs. IEP?

The SST process is an informal, non-legally binding process. It is information gathering and brainstorming to hopefully address a student’s struggles. It may or may not involve a special education teacher. The SST process in education is a general education process. The SST process in education is not a special education function. A SST meeting can take place without your present and its recommendations may be implemented without your consent.

An Individualized Education Plan or IEP is a special education process. Your child may not receive special education or related services without first undergoing an IEP assessment for special education services. You can read more about the special education assessment process here: ….. An IEP meeting may not be held without you participating in most circumstances, and your student may not receive special education or related services without your consent. The IEP is legally binding. With an IEP, you and your student have federally- and state-protected rights. You can read more about an IEP vs 504 Plan here: ….

I’ve requested an IEP assessment for special education but was told I have to have a Student Study Team first to determine if my child should be assessed. Can they do this?

No. Under California Education Code, and in many other states, a SST meeting cannot be used to delay or deny a parent’s request for their student to be assessed for an IEP for special education (Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56321(f)). Schools are required to use general education supports prior to referring a child for an IEP assessment, but a school cannot use the SST process to deny, delay or replace the IEP assessment for special education.

Even at the federal level, schools may not use informal screening processes to delay a special education evaluation for an IEP (Letter to Torres (2009), OSERS 53 IDELR 333). You can read more about the IEP special education process here: …

Why would the Student Study Team meet when I’ve requested an IEP assessment for special education?

A SST team may request a SST meeting after you provide your request for an IEP assessment for special education simply to get more information from you about your areas of concern. This helps them to determine what areas of suspected disability they need to assess. This is a nice gesture but still cannot delay the district responding to your request for an IEP assessment for special education services. The school still needs to respond to your request for an IEP assessment within 15 calendar days of your written request: they either provide you with an assessment plan to test for an IEP or they send a Prior Written Notice denying the assessment.

Unfortunately, the SST process is often misused as a stall tactic. Instead of providing you with an IEP assessment plan or denying your request for special education assessment, the SST in education can be used to delay your student being assessed and supported. The SST team cannot deny your request for special education: that can only be done through special education in the form of a Prior Written Notice. Again: the SST team cannot deny nor delay your request for a special education evaluation.

The SST Team denied my request for a special education evaluation. Now what do I do?

If the school has denied your request for a special education assessment in the SST meeting, you need support. Our educational advocates are highly skilled in negotiation and getting the school districts to follow the laws. If you feel that your request for an IEP assessment for special education is being ignored or that the SST process is being used to delay or deny your request for assessment, contact our office to learn more about how our educational advocates can help get the situation resolved.