Introductory Information

The public school system varies based on district, though there are many common features you can expect. Each school has a variety of resources for the needs of youth and their families. Some resources are available to all students and families, and other resources are available to youth with higher or more specialized needs. Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) uses models called Response to Intervention and Montana Behavior Initiative. These intervention models are broken into three levels or tiers which offer varying levels of support for students with diverse needs, which we describe here. For schools outside of Missoula County Public School District, contact the principal or special education director to inquire about available resources and interventions.

Universal/ Tier 1 Resources


Teachers are the first point of contact for parents and are responsible for academics. Teachers can also help with strategies and referrals for youth who are struggling.

School Counselors 

School counselors teach and support different strategies for students. These include anti-bullying, social/emotional learning and behavior strategies. School counselors offer parent education and support, and can refer students to appropriate interventions. Any youth can access a school counselor for support, and the level of support they provide can fit tiers 1, 2 & 3.


This includes the school principal, assistant principal, and dean. Administrators support teachers to provide effective instruction and provide leadership to the school community. They support parents and students in achievement, and can refer students to appropriate interventions or resources.

Family Resource Centers

Family Resource Centers help coordinate between parents and the school. They increase parent engagement in the school and provide community resource information. They also support teachers in home-school communication and collaboration.

Student Resource Officers

Student Resource Officers develop positive relationships with students and provide crisis response as needed.

At Risk/Tier 2 Resources

If youth needs more support, parents should first contact the teacher and ask for a meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to brainstorm and explore interventions. If the youth still needs more support, parents should contact the school counselor or principal. Generally, a meeting will take place with the parent and the school staff identified to determine next steps. Parents can bring a family member, a professional working with their family, or other supports to advocate for what they see as their child’s needs. The team may decide to use tier 2 interventions as a next step.


Students connect with a consistent adult before and after school. Students also connect with their teachers several times a day.

Small Groups

Students receive instruction in social skills, conflict resolution, anxiety management, and other topics.

Behavior Plans

Simple behavior plans are developed by the school psychologist or counselor for the student's individual needs.


Students meets regularly with an adult who offers support and advice.

Meaningful Work

Students complete jobs that connect them to school and provide a sense of belonging.

High Risk/Tier 3 Resources

If Tier 2 interventions do not meet the youth’s needs, the team meets to explore next steps.

Special Education 

Special Education provides academic and behavior interventions for youth with disabilities. This is also called an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP states the youth’s level of functioning, goals, and interventions implemented by the school. These interventions may include Resource/Extended Resource Services, Structured Learning Programs, and Life Skills. To be eligible for an IEP, there are a few conditions. First, the disability must affect the youth's ability to learn. Second, tier one and two interventions must have failed.

Some youth may have a disability that requires an accommodation rather than an intervention. In this case, a 504 plan is a good option to try before an IEP or in the place of an IEP.

For more information:

Missoula County Public Schools Special Education Services.

Parents, Let's Unite For Kids (PLUK), Parent Handbook to Special Education Services

School Based Mental Health

School Based Mental Health, or Comprehensive School and Community Treatment (CSCT) provides individual, group and family therapy for students with emotional and behavioral needs. If a student needs CSCT, school staff notify the parent and ask if they are interested in the service. If a parent would like to refer their child, the parent contacts the school principal or counselor. If the child has not tried lower level interventions, they may be placed in these first. If the student is not receiving Medicaid, the parent can pay a fee for services on a sliding fee scale. If a student is transferring from a more intensive setting, this process can move more quickly. CSCT is provided by mental health centers within the school setting, not the school itself.