Student Assistance Program

The Howard County Public Schools are dedicated to student success! If a student has a problem that interferes with their progress in school, HCPSS is there to help. The Student Assistance Program (SAP) is specifically designed to help students who may be using tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs. The SAP is facilitated through a school-based team in each school that offers support to students, parents and teachers. The SAP provides a systematic approach to early identification, intervention, referral, and follow-up of students whose behavior indicates patterns that may be related to the use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.

How does it work?

  1. Initial Referral: Any teacher, other adult, or student may make a referral of a student whom they are concerned about. The referral may be made anonymously to protect the relationship between the “referrer” and the “referee.” For example: Cindy is an 11th grader whose friend, Chris, has begun drinking alcohol regularly. Cindy confides in her mom, who feels uncomfortable speaking to Chris or calling Chris’ parents about the situation, but is concerned for Chris’ health and safety. Cindy’s mom can fill out the simple SAP Referral Form (below) and send it anonymously to the school SAP team, who will follow up discreetly on the situation.
  2. Information collection: The SAP team sends a confidential checklist form to Chris’ teachers and other school personnel to ask if they have observed any difficulties with Chris’ progress in school or general health and attitude. The reason for the inquiry is not given, to protect Chris’ confidentiality. Information received back is reviewed by the SAP team.
  3. Intervention: If there is documented reason for concern, the SAP team will contact Chris’ parents and request a meeting to discuss the concerns. Hopefully, Chris’ parents are receptive and will meet with the SAP team. It is the SAP program’s experience that some parents are already aware that there is a problem, and may be relieved to get help and support. Other parents are unaware of their child’s problem.
  4. Referral to Services: If the situation warrants, the SAP team will recommend to parents that they seek appropriate services for their child in the school or the community. The SAP team maintains a list of available services. In the case of Chris, whose drinking behaviors are evident, a referral is made to a licensed adolescent addictions counselor who can offer evaluation and treatment. In Howard County, the school system has an agreement with the Howard County Health Department (HCHD) and Integrative Counseling, a private provider, where, if referred by the SAP, they will receive a free assessment. At this point, the issue is in the parents’ hands. Once the school has made a recommendation, the parents may choose to act upon it or not.
  5. Follow-Up: Follow-up is different in each case. The goal of this step is to provide the student and family with appropriate support in order to enhance the chances for success. It is up to the parent and the student how much information is shared with the school about outside services sought or received. However, the school may continue to offer a variety of strategies including support groups, faculty mentoring, and peer support groups to support the student in the school setting.

Do you have questions about the Student Assistance Program (SAP)?

For more information, please visit the HCPSS Mental Health and Wellness Resources page or contact the Student Services team at the student’s school. Please remember that use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs by students is illegal and a violation of school policy.

If a student is caught in possession or under the influence of any of these substances at school or at any school-related event, disciplinary and legal action will follow. The Student Assistance Program seeks to prevent these steps by identifying and helping students early. Click here to download a SAP Referral Form.

Howard County Public School System Policies (click to view):