What is SAP?
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Student Assistance Program (SAP) is designed to assist school personnel in identifying issues including alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, and mental health issues which pose a barrier to a student’s success. The primary goal of the Student Assistance Program (SAP) is to help students overcome these barriers in order that they may achieve, remain in school, and advance.
1. What service does the Student Assistance Program provide?
The primary goal of SAP is to help students overcome barriers in order that they may achieve, remain in school and advance.
2. Why do we need a Student Assistance Program?
Our young people live in a complex and often challenging world filled with many pressures and situations that may contribute to a variety of problems.
Every 29 seconds, another student gives up on school, resulting in more than one million American dropouts a year – or 7,000 every day. This is according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Many of the reasons young people give for dropping out of school are barriers that the Student Assistance Team can help young people with, reducing the likelihood that the student will terminate his/her schooling prior to earning a diploma.
Helping parents and kids identify healthy solutions and support systems to reduce the adverse impact barriers to learning may pose is the primary function of the SAP. The process is based upon state guidelines, professional standards, policies and procedures adopted by the local school board and has been in effect since 1988. More than 1,218,154 referrals have been made to the Student Assistance Program since its inception.
3. Why might a parent seek out help from the Student Assistance Program?
A parent may notice a dramatic change in behavior, a drop in grades, withdrawal from typical activities or engagement with family, increased emotionality such as sadness, irritability, anger, difficulties coping with family or personal stressors, problems getting a child to school, frequent physical complaints of not feeling well that don’t appear related to any medical condition, unresolved or complicated patterns of grief, or concerns with substance abuse. Just to name a few.
4. Who can make a referral?
Anyone can refer a student to the Student Assistance Program when they are concerned about them for some of the reasons already shared. The student’s themselves can even go directly to the SAP Team to ask for help. Referrals can be made anonymously. The SAP Team contacts the parent for permission to proceed with the Student Assistance process and if declined, the process ends.
5. Some parents may be concerned about the sensitive nature of issues and concerns and the privacy of such.
Parents need to know that professionals on the SAP Team are trained and certified by the state prior to being able to serve on the team. Team members may include school nurse, teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, social workers and psychologist. They understand the sensitive nature of the information they receive and the need for it to be handled in a confidential, nonjudgmental and caring manner. In addition, parents are encouraged to actively participate in the Student Assistance Program and permission is required for the child to receive services through the Student Assistance Program.
6. What if my child is referred, what will the Student Assistance Team do?
The team gathers objective data about the student’s performance in school from school personnel that interact with the child and information is collected from the parent. If someone other than the parent refers the child, a member of the SAP team will call the parent to discuss the referral and the Student Assistance Program with him or her. The data is reviewed and the team develops a plan that includes strategies to remove potential barriers to the student’s academic or personal success. This may include in-school or community based services and activities. The SAP team does not diagnose but instead, works with the child’s strengths and links the child to appropriate, available supports. If parent permission is received, the team will also continue to monitor the student’s progress throughout the school year and communicate with the parent as needed. Involvement of the parents in all phases of the program underscores the parents’ role and responsibility in the decision-making process affecting their child’s education and is key to the successful resolution of problems.
For example, some students may be recommended to have an assessment done by a trained professional that can make recommendations to the parent regarding the possible need for community based mental health or drug and alcohol services. They will support the parent in identifying appropriate community-based providers and even help with getting initial appointments scheduled.
7. How does a parent find out more about the Student Assistance Program at your child’s school?
Parents may seek out information by visiting online resources, such as their school’s webpage, often times they have links to the Student Assistance Program online.
Parents may ask for more information by speaking directly to the school nurse, guidance counselor or any individual that is listed as a team member of SAP. Majority of programs retain the actual name of Student Assistance Program but some may have renamed (i.e., Student Support Team). In addition, most schools will have some information available in the form of brochures, posters in highly visible locations in the school building or on school calendars or included in student handbooks.
8. What Student Assistance Program isn’t.
It is not related to discipline or punitive consequences.
It does not diagnose.
It is not special education.
National Center for Education Statistics
Parents can find out more information at
CHC is the proud provider of Lehigh County SAP liaison services. Please contact us for more information.
Video of SAP process with students, courtesy of Wendy Costanzo, RN, CSN
The CHC SAP Liaison Team
Commonwealth Approved Trainer
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K-12 Student Assistance Program (SAP) Training
Student Assistance Program: This three-day training is based on the Revised Standards and Competencies re-issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Department of Education in 2012. Completion of all competency-based activities, including a post-training assignment, results in SAP K-12 certification and receipt of 30 Act 48 hours.