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L-M Board of Directors hears update on Student Services
by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · December 7th, 2017

At the November 20 Linn-Mar school board meeting, members of the board heard a presentation from Leisa Breitfelder, Executive Director of Student Services, about the different areas included within Student Support Services.

Student Support Services cover a wide group of topics. They include the following:

Special education

504 coordination

At-risk education

Student assistance teams

Crisis management

English Language Learners

Before and after school care


Health services

Counseling services

Student wellness


Services for homeless

Foster care liaison

Thirty-seven different languages are represented within the district, so one of the major responsibilities within support services is to assist students who do not speak English reasonably well. Breitfelder included a graph which shows the various languages spoken within the district.

Another area about which Breitfelder reported was the Iowa Youth Survey and its 2016 School District Results. Questions were asked of students in Grades 6, 8 and 11 across the state. Breitfelder showed some of the pertinent data, not only for the Linn-Mar District but also for districts of similar size.

Some of the questions in the survey asked about exposure to or use of alcohol, tobacco products, and other drugs.

Among the most sobering results were answers to survey questions about 1) how often a student had felt worthless in the past 30 days, 2) whether or not a student had seriously thought about killing themselves, 3) whether they had prepared a plan to do so, and 4) if they had actually tried to do so.

The statistics for females were significantly higher than for males on each of these questions and a cause for much concern. For instance, one-third of Linn-Mar's girls in Grade 8 as well as in Grade 11 responded that they felt worthless all, most, or some of the time. This applied to girls in school districts of similar size across Iowa as well.

Other topics Breitfelder covered included current percentages of students (or families) being helped through various programs and, compared with those, goals for the district to provide help to more students and families.

For instance, she noted that 55 percent of at-risk families have reached out through the school for help. The goal is for 75 percent or more to do so.

With regard to behavior services, 75 percent qualify. Breitfelder indicated that the goal is for 100 percent to have an intervention.

Currently, 71 percent of students referred for mentoring are actually in the program. The goal is for 100 percent of referred students to be in the program.

At present, only 47 percent of students referred for counseling have actually been seen. The goal is for at least 80 percent to be seen.

Breitfelder also reviewed laws and how they have changed over time with regard to special education. She discussed rights for children with disabilities and individual education programs for them, as well as related services like transportation and specialized therapies. She also explained terms such as LRE (least restrictive environment).

One of the comparisons Breitfelder made was how Section 504 and individual education programs are interwoven. Students eligible for Section 504 accommodation plans must meet all three of these criteria: They must have 1) a mental or physical impairment 2) which substantially limits 3) one or more major life activities. And the disability or impairment must be the reason the student cannot equally access or receive benefit from the school's regular programs and services.

Section 504 is part of the Civil Rights Rehabilitation Act and is overseen by the Office of Civil Rights, while IEPs fall under the Special Education Individuals with Disabilities Act and is overseen by the Department of Education. An IEP is offered through 12th grade and does not transfer to college, while there is no age limit for a 504 Plan and it will transfer to college.

Breitfelder also compared both of these acts with the Americans With Disabilities Act, which extends coverage of Section 504 to employment, transportation, and communications as well as education.

Additional information was reported with regard to those at all school levels. In total, 1,603 students within Linn-Mar receive support services of some kind.

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