School Services You May Not Know About
Available in Most Schools
Many school services are required by state, but not federal, laws or are simply part of schools' general practice. Not sure what's available in your state? Find your board of education through the U.S. Department of Education's Web site at www.schoolmatters.com and ask. Here are a few of the more common services your school may provide.
- Student Assistance Teams Is your child academically gifted or challenged? Most schools have an organized Student Assistance Team, which typically consists of a guidance counselor and school psychologist, but may also include other education professionals. Together, you can brainstorm strategies to improve your child's academic prospects. For example, the group could determine how he learns best and give him and his teacher tips on how to adjust his assignments accordingly. Or, if he's gifted and needs work that he would find more challenging, it might create an independent study course to keep him motivated. Student assistance teams can also help parent, child, and teacher coordinate plans -- the group might work together to establish morning, lunchtime, or after-school help sessions or get all parties to agree that your child can have the opportunity to submit a detailed project for a class grade rather than take a test. Although the existence of these groups isn't mandated by law, "every school has something like this," says Jennifer White-Peters, a guidance counselor for the Burlington (New Jersey) City School District.
- Counseling Most states require that middle and high schools have guidance counselors whose job is to provide psychological help to all students who need it. But what if your family is in need of counseling as well? Many schools will also provide this service, in which case it is free of charge. If your district doesn't have the resources, ask for a list of subsidized counseling services in your area, White-Peters recommends.
- Peer Mentors If your child is intimidated at the prospect of attending a new high school or depressed that he didn't make the varsity squad, ask his school about peer-on-peer counseling programs. While these resources aren't mandatory, many schools are happy to assign an older student as a big brother or sister to show a newbie around -- some even have peer networks in place so that your child can work through problems and issues with a sympathetic person closer to his own age (either one-on-one or through a hotline). Older students can often offer situation-specific advice that's relevant in a way that adults' words of wisdom can't always be, which may be extremely helpful to kids troubled by bad breakups or frustrations with grades. Of course, for problems deemed more serious, peer mentors are generally trained to refer their advisees to professionals.