ETHICS FOR THE SCHOOL COUNSELOR

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1 How Competent are You in Recognizing Appropriate Decisions for Ethical Dilemmas: October 4, 2012 Region 10 Counselor Symposium ETHICS FOR THE SCHOOL COUNSELOR

2 Agenda Asked and Answered Ethical Issues in the Schools by Carolyn Stone, Mary Hermann, and Rhonda Williams and Student Suicide: Legal and Ethical Implications by Carolyn Stone and Perry Zirkel from ASCA School Counselor: vol.49. Number 5, p. 36.

3 Ethical Dilemmas This session will concentrate on Ethical Dilemmas. The ASCA School Counselor Magazine s May/June 2012 issue was dedicated to Ethics and we will take the quiz as a group to see how comfortable you are with the Ethical Standards. Next we will concentrate on ethical dilemmas and what we can learn from those.

4 What is Your situation with ASCA Ethical Standards? I should be teaching this Familiar with the new Standards. Did not realize the Standards had Changed Never really covered ASCA Standards Faced with an Ethical Dilemma currently Have a Concern about an Ethical Dilemma

5 The purposes of the document Inform all stakeholders of best ethical practices, values, and expected behaviors of the school counseling professional.

6 How Well do you Know Our Ethical Standards? The ASCA Ethical Standards counsel against the following except for: A. Relationships with students through a communication medium such as Facebook. B. Dating a family member of a former student C. Using peer-helpers. D. Using the position to recruit clients for a private practice.

7 The ASCA Ethical Standards counsel against the following except for: C. Using peer-helpers.

8 How Well do you Know Our Ethical Standards? School counselors may break student/counselor confidentiality in the following cases except: A. When the student is a threat to others. B. When preparing reports for the school administration C. When it falls within the parents legal and inherent rights to be the guiding voice of the child. D. When providing need-to know information that will aid in student s success.

9 School counselors may break student/counselor confidentiality in the following cases except: B. When preparing reports for the school administration

10 How Well do You Know Our Ethical Standards? The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) specifies that : A. Counseling records should not be transmitted electronically from school to school. B. Parents have a voice in what information is shared with others concerning their child. C. All counseling records are property of the school district. D. All of the Above

11 The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act(FERPA) specifies that : B. Parents have a voice in what information is shared with others concerning their child.

12 How Well do You Know Our Ethical Standards? The ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors recommend using caution when using assessment measures because of: A. Confidentiality when using electronically based measures B. Performance of a population that is not the norm group on which the standardization is based. C. Effects of the developmental age of the student in analyzing the results. D. All of the above

13 The ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors recommend using caution when using assessment measures because of: D. All of the above

14 How Well do You Know Our Ethical Standards? In the development of a school counseling program, the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors all of the following except: A. Ensure the values, beliefs, and cultural background of the majority of students are maintained. B. Connect the school counseling program to the mission. C. Develop a data-driven evaluation process. D. Develop educational programs to meet students developmental needs.

15 In the development of a school counseling program, the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors all of the following except: A. Ensure the values, beliefs, and cultural background of the majority of students are maintained.

16 How Well do you Know Our Ethical Standards? When there is serious doubt about the ethical behavior of a colleague, what is the first step advocated by the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors? A. The school counselor should directly approach the colleague whose behavior is in question to discuss the complaint and seek resolution. B. The school counselor should consult confidentially with a professional colleague to discuss the nature of the complaint to see if the colleague views the situation as an ethical violation. C. The school counselor should inform the colleague s supervisor: principal or counseling supervisor. D. The school counselor should follow the guidelines for reporting incidents established by the school district.

17 When there is serious doubt about the ethical behavior of a colleague, what is the first step advocated by the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors? B. The school counselor should consult confidentially with a professional colleague to discuss the nature of the complaint to see if the colleague views the situation as an ethical violation.

18 How Well do you Know Our Ethical Standards? The ASCA Ethical Standards recommend school counselors contribute to the profession by: A. Sharing results and best practices. B. Providing support and mentoring to novice professionals. C. Actively participating in professional organizations. D. All of the above.

19 The ASCA Ethical Standards recommend school counselors contribute to the profession by: D. All of the Above

20 How Well do you Know Our Ethical Standards? The ASCA Ethical Standards specify that informing students of the limits of confidentiality may be difficult because: A. You need to build a trusted rapport with the student before informing. B. The developmental level of the student s understanding. C. Students general mistrust of authority figures D. All of the above.

21 The ASCA Ethical Standards specify that informing students of the limits of confidentiality may be difficult because: B. The developmental level of the student s understanding.

22 How Well do You Know Our Ethical Standards? The ASCA Ethical Standards recommend making referrals to other counseling professionals when: A. The topics that need to be addressed are inappropriate for a school setting. B. The counseling needs are beyond the capability of the individual school counselor. C. The school counselor has a relationship with the student s family that may impair the counselor s objectivity. D. All of the above.

23 The ASCA Ethical Standards recommend making referrals to other counseling professionals when: D. All of the Above

24 How Well do You Know Our Ethical Standards? The stated purpose of the ASCA Ethical Standards does not include: A. Serve as a guide for the ethical practices of all professional school counselors, supervisors/directors of school counseling programs and counselor educators. B. Provide professional school counselors and their supervisors the legal obligations and vulnerabilities inherent in a school counseling setting. C. Provide self-appraisal and peer-evaluations regarding school counselors responsibilities to students, parents/guardians, colleagues and professional associates, schools, communities, and the school counseling profession. D. Inform all stakeholders, including students, parents and guardians

25 The ASCA Ethical Standards recommend making referrals to other counseling professionals when: B. Provide professional school counselors and their supervisors the legal obligations and vulnerabilities inherent in a school counseling setting.

26 Ethical Issues What do I do when a student who is a minor tells me she is pregnant?

27 Guidance: Know the age of Consent: Texas is 18 Know School Board Policies regarding this issue and community norms Find out if the student has confirmed her pregnancy Also consider if sex was consensual and the age difference of both parties In Texas, ANYONE who has any sexual contact with a girl under 17 could be charged with "Indecency With a Child," which is a felony. This is true even if the sexual contact was consensual, even if it didn't involve actual intercourse, and even if both are teenagers and close to the same age. If someone is charged, they have a defense and should not be convicted if: They are no more than three years older than you, and They are of the opposite sex, and They are not registered or convicted as a sex offender.

28 Guidance: Technically, though, anyone who touches a minor sexually at all could be considered to be abusing them under the law. If someone does not meet all the requirements of the defense above and has any kind of sexual contact with someone under 17, they could be convicted of a felony and sent to prison. Mandatory Reporting Texas law requires ANYONE who has reason to think that a minor has been harmed by abuse or neglect (including "Indecency with a Child" as described above) to make a report to Child Protective Services or to the police. Even people like doctors, lawyers and counselors, who might normally have to keep what you tell them confidential, are legally required to make a report. Understanding the student s relationship with her parents will help you initiate how to approach having the student tell her parents

29 Ethical Issues If a minor student tells me she s pregnant, hasn t told her parents and plans to have an abortion, do I have a legal obligation to share this information with parents and/or administration?

30 Guidance: Again, know state and school board policies. Texas: Requires parental consent - one parent. Allows minor to bypass parent s consent by obtaining a court approval. A judicial bypass is an order from a judge that allows a minor to have an abortion without telling or receiving consent from a parent or legal guardian. Allows abortion in medical emergency without parental consent. Imperative to monitor your own biases while at the same time helping the student process how to best disclose to the parents if at all possible. Understand legal issues or parent rights vs. Student confidentiality

31 Ethical Dilemmas One of my students recently shared with me that she often cuts herself. Should I contact her parents immediately, or should I meet with her a few times first to establish trust and try to get her to either tell her parents herself or allow me to do so? For me, the issue is not as black and white as I wish.

32 Guidance: Assess cutting behaviors and intentions If assessment indicates suicidal ideation, take immediate action to inform parents and develop a crisis plan. If her actions don t indicate imminent danger, it is important to understand her cutting conduct and assess the level of addiction to this behavior. The development of a healthy relationship can assist to guide her to disclosing this behavior to her parents.

33 Ethical Dilemmas I work as the only school counselor in a small middle school. Next year, my daughter will enter my school. How do I provide school counseling services to my own child?

34 Guidance: Counseling your family member creates an unethical dual relationship. However, the Ethical Standards state if a dual relationship is unavoidable, take action to eliminate or reduce the potential harm through informed consent, consultation, supervision, and documentation. Avoid personal counseling but with career development you might want to explain what you say as a counselor as well as your opinion as a parent.

35 Ethical Dilemmas Are case notes truly my own or do I have to share them if ever lawyers get involved? Do I have to testify?

36 Guidance: In Texas, school counselors are required to testify: Except as otherwise provided by Constitution, by statute, by these rules,or by other rules prescribed pursuant to statutory authority, no person has a privilege to: (1) refuse to be a witness; (2) refuse to disclose any matter; (3) refuse to produce any object or writing; or (4) prevent another from being a witness or disclosing any matter or producing any object or writing Mental health counselors are the only counselors granted exceptions( Confidentiality: Rule 502);school counselors do not qualify as mental health professionals under this ruling: You should always speak with an attorney and explain your ethical obligations to your student and cite your ethical standards. Explain that the state will

37 Guidance (continued) Explain that the state will gain no new knowledge should you testify, but that your student could be harmed and state the reasons. Never respond to a subpoena until you speak with the school district legal representative who may be able to get a motion to suspend the subpoena. Try to keep your records and opinions out of court unless it is a case of abuse. Our loyalty is to students and protecting their privacy to the extent possible. If all attempts to avoid relinquishing your records to court fail, then you must submit them.

38 Ethical Dilemmas What detail is necessary for case notes? Is it necessary to have notes on every conversation we have with students?

39 Guidance (continued): Typically, school counselors keep minimal notes with name time and a few details as a memory aid. Notes can be subpoenaed and parents can access them if they contain anything other than observations and professional opinion. According to FERPA case notes are sole-possession records and not educational records, but they must: Serve as a memory aid Not be accessible or shared verbally or written form Be a private note created solely for the person possessing it Include only observations and professional opinions Filter what you write through the lens that notes may be read Write down what you need to advocate for kids

40 Ethical Dilemmas I ve been asked to write a letter of recommendation for a part-time job at an animal shelter for a student who s frequently been called to the office for disciplinary actions. I think this student is a good kid, and the additional responsibility of the part-time job will help put this student on the right path. Ethically, should I disclose the student s disciplinary issues to the future employer or not?

41 Guidance Student disciplinary information is confidential so you re protected from sharing. Of you believe the student would do well in this job, you would not violate any ethical standards.

42 Ethical Dilemmas I run a small group in my school for students whose parents are divorcing. I was just asked to testify in a divorce/custody case for the parents of one of my group members. How much can I or should I divulge about things students said on a group meeting?

43 Guidance Be cautious about what you allow students to discuss In divorce group deal with topics such as change or resiliency. We have to safeguard our students since we cannot guarantee confidentiality. If called to testify share facts: number of students, topics, dates, and general summary of student s engagement. Avoid casting one parent or another in a bad light.

44 Ethical Dilemmas In the past, administrators have asked me to break confidentiality regarding matters that, in my opinion, aren t need-to-know. What should I do in cases like this? Is it insubordination to refuse to give that information?

45 Guidance Should respect position of authority while adhering to obligation to protect students confidential and sensitive info. Challenge is to promote student s autonomy while letting administrators know you are listening and honoring their requests. Suggestions: If you believe requester could support and help student if given info-then ask student if you can share Interject the critical importance of confidentiality before it becomes an issue. Give administrator copy of ASCA ethics Deflect requests in a way the requester still feels supported: What are you observing? Is there a particular issue I can help solve?

46 Ethical Dilemmas Who needs to know what? How do I balance the issues of confidentiality with need-toknow for teachers, parents, and administration. Especially, with what could be considered at-risk issues?

47 Guidance: Need to Know recipients only are in that position when they can benefit the student with the shared information Breaching student confidentiality requires balance with need to know. We should choose our words judiciously to maintain optimum communications with students & parents. We practice confidentiality through: in loco parentis/ substantial interest/need to know and qualified privilege.

48 Ethical Dilemmas Recently a student s mother called me and told me her son had shared with her that one of his friends was being physically abused. When I met with the boy in question, he denied being abused. Am I required to pursue this situation further? IF something happens in the future will I be held liable because I did not report it to authorities?

49 Ethical Dilemmas A school counselor Must report suspected child abuse in TX Safest course of action: call CPS and report information including other child s parent s concerns and child s denial. ASCA position: Counselors have a Legal, ethical, and moral responsibility to report suspected cases of child abuse/neglect to proper authorities and to provide appropriate services to these students.

50 Ethical Dilemmas I have heard recent reports of a student being cyberbullied. I haven t seen any of the bullying myself as it s done via students individual facebook accounts. The student being cyberbullied has not come to me for help. What is my role?

51 Guidance Should talk to the student even if the student has not approached you. We cannot be unresponsive to this potentially deadly form of bullying. Offer same type of support you would to any bullied student Check board policy for cyber-bullying. Educate students and parents about cybersafety and cyber-bullying.

52 Ethical Dilemmas I have set up a facebook page for the school counseling department for my students. Although I am careful not to Friend any of my students on my personal Facebook account, sometimes I see things on the department account that concerns me. I have seen comments about underage drinking or other risky behaviors. If these activities happen off school grounds, what is my role as the school counselor?

53 Guidance React we must Prime directive of School Counselors: Advocate for Students Clarify boundaries of school counseling department Facebook page Put an informed consent statement on page Cybereducation is a proactive way to help students understand the impact and consequences of posts online.

54 Ethical Dilemmas Our school psychologist often doesn t meet with students on her caseload, falsifies test documents, and lies to parents and administrators regarding IEP goals and services she should, by law, be providing. I have approached her in a professional manner, but she immediately gets defensive. My principal has complained to the district office, but nothing has been done. What are my ethical responsibilities to the students who aren t getting the services they deserve?

55 Guidance Answer lies with administration Serious personnel matter with falsification of documents & not adhering to IEP goals Administration has to force issue with district by presenting hard data If no intervention, document efforts & look for politically astute ways to effect change. Responsibility for this issue lies with administration.

56 Ethical Dilemmas If a thirteen year old comes to me and describes a murder-suicide pact that another student wants her to sign. Do I have a duty to warn her parents? * Dilemma adapted from Eisel vs. Board of Education of Montgomery County Student Suicide: Legal and Ethical Implications in ASCA School Counselor:vol.9, no. 5, p. 26.

57 Eisel vs. Board of Education(1991) A 13 year- old female student died in an apparent murder-suicide pact with another student. Her father sued the school district and two of its school counselors, arguing that their special relationship with his daughter imposed a duty on them to report her suicidal ideations to him and his wife. The trial court dismissed the father s lawsuit, but sent it back to a lower court for trial. The school counselors were not found liable for the student s death, but the case provided some critical principles.

58 Guidance The consequence of the risk is so great that even a relatively remote possibility of a suicide may be enough to establish duty. School counselors act in loco parentis, which means their obligation is to protect students safety at school and exercise reasonable care to give parents a chance to protect their children. Working with minors in a school setting requires counselors to collaborate with students parents/guardians to the extent possible. Students sometimes deceive in order to avoid further scrutiny and/or parent notification. When school counselors work with a potentially suicidal student, the end result MUST always be to notify the parent/guardian.

59 Ethical Dilemmas A student came to me and told me of his friend s suicidal ideations and drug overdose. I have spoken to the student, and he confirmed that he was involved with drugs, but he hedged the issue about suicide. I called his mother urged the mother to take him to a drug treatment center. Should I have mentioned the suicidal ideation? * Dilemma adapted from County Grant vs. Board of Trustees Valley View School District Student Suicide: Legal and Ethical Implications in ASCA School Counselor:vol.9, no. 5, p. 28.

60 Grant vs. Board of Trustees of Valley View School District (1997) A student s friend reported his suicidal ideations and drug overdose to the school counselor. The school counselor urged the mother to take him to a hospital for drug treatment. Later that day, the student jumped to his death from a highway overpass. His mother alleged the school counselor failed to tell her about his suicidal expressions. An Illinois appellate court upheld the trial court s dismissal on the grounds that public schools and their employees have immunity unless their misconduct was willful or wanton.

61 Guidance School counselors are clear with parents about a child s expressed or implied suicidal ideation. When a threat of suicide is implied, avoid skirting the issues and ask the tough questions. Many students will respond they are not considering suicide when asked. Use open ended questions, such as, What do you think about life and death? Parents need to understand that expressions of suicide require vigilance. School counselors should document they contacted the parents and wherever possible have a witness to the communication. The principal or another administrator can add needed leverage and urgency to the conversation if the parents are reluctant to act. Documentation should not be put above parents feelings and wellbeing, but you should seek a signature from parents at the first appropriate opportunity.

62 Ethical Dilemmas A student allegedly told a teacher s aide that he wanted to blow his brains out. I met with the student and had the student sign a contract for safety. I called the parents and informed them that it would be fine for him to remain in school. Should I do more? * Dilemma adapted from Mikell vs. School Administrative Unit #3 Student Suicide: Legal and Ethical Implications in ASCA School Counselor:vol.9, no. 5, p. 28.

63 Mikell vs. School Administrative Unit #33(2009) A student allegedly told a teacher s aide that he wanted to blow his brains out. The school counselor met with the student, informed the parents that he was fine to remain at school and had the student sign a contract for safety. The school counselor took no further action, and 2 months later the student hanged himself. The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that school authorities were not liable for the student s death as they did not have custodial care nor had they engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct that resulted in an uncontrollable impulse to commit suicide or prevented the decedent from realizing the nature of his act.

64 Guidance In adolescence, indirect clues could be offered through joking or through references in school assignments, particularly in creative writing or art pieces. If a school counselor informally or formally conducts a suicide assessment and considers the student to be at low risk for suicide, the school counselor still needs to contact the student s parents. Little empirical evidence supports contracts as an effective tool to prevent suicide. Additionally, the use of suicide contracts implies that the school counselor will ensure the student s safety. The word contract can give the impression of a binding agreement. However, a suicidal person is often not competent to agree to sign a contract. Use of contracts may have the opposite effect and open one up to law suits. If a school counselor believes it is in a student s best interest to put something on paper, have the student identify goals, hopeful comments, what is currently going right or what adult to turn to for help.

65 Ethical Dilemmas There seems to be an ongoing struggle with putting school counselors in administrative roles, having them deal with disciplinary issues or even evaluative issues with teachers. How do I refuse to do these duties without looking like I am not a team player?

66 Guidance: When administrators put counselors in quasiadministrative positions, they are acting on historical role definitions. Educate faculty and administrators about roles of today s school counselors. Check the Careers/Roles section of the ASCA website for information regarding the school counselor s role. A presentation for faculty and administration could be helpful.

67 Ethical Dilemmas Are there ethical issues with high school counselors who also maintain an independent college counseling business outside of school hours? What if they only work with students outside their home district?

68 Guidance: Having a private college counseling business has the potential to create unethical dual relationships, yet the business can be maintained with careful consideration of ethical guidelines. School counselors should provide students with opportunities to explore post-secondary opportunities and create post-secondary plans. School counselors are also expected to avoid dual relationships that may impair objectivity. Counselors do not use their work sites to recruit clients for a private practice. Working with students from other districts would seem to be the perfect solution to avoid ethical challenges.

69 Ethical Dilemmas Situations spill over and may extend into after-school time or the other part of the day for a part-time person. Ethically, we need to see the situations through until they are resolved, but how do you balance that with time constraints? Am I ethically obligated to work beyond my normal work hours to deal with issues with the students?

70 Guidance Though a school counselor s contractual legal contract can be quantified, the defined schedule creates a minimum obligation. The legal standard of care, acting reasonably under the circumstances, would also include school counselors working with students in crisis until the crisis is resolved. School counselors are ethically obligated to see situations through until resolved. If this happens consistently, a discussion with administration could be needed to delegate noncounseling duties elsewhere or the need to hire additional personnel.

71 Ethical Dilemmas Sometimes when I share need-to-know confidential information with a teacher and/or administrator they aren t always respectful of the confidentiality and they share the information with others in the school who don t have a need-to know. How do I address these issues?

72 Guidance Trusting relationship with teachers, admin, and district as well as students Ensure faculty understands your ethical standards to protect student confidentiality. If this info is not valued, speak in general terms with persons who mishandle information. If you need to share specifics, let them know careless talk may be shown as malicious in the courts and thus, not protected by qualified privilege.

73 Ethical Dilemmas What do I do with families that resist getting much needed mental health care for their children? At what point does it become a neglect issue?

74 Guidance: What Constitutes neglect is governed by state abuse laws TX law: Any action, whether intentional or by omission, that exposes a child to an event presenting risk of harm is deemed neglectful. Specific Acts: placing a minor in any situation that under the judgment of a reasonable individual would constitute an event requiring the child to possess skills, judgment, maturity and physical abilities well beyond her capabilities and age in order to prevent immediate threats and risks of bodily injury (includes leaving unattended even in a car if under 7) failure of a parent to provide medical care, which presents risk of lethal consequences, nonlethal injury, disfigurement, and most important, potentially inhibits future functioning, growth and development in a discernible manner.

75 Guidance cont. A similar consideration regarding child neglect in the Texas Family Code includes failure of parents to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing for a child, aside from instances of financial difficulty, unless relief and other financial assistance has been refused. A fourth and final active neglect definition noted in the Texas Family Code includes a provision requiring parents to remove a child from situations that expose a child to situations posing a reasonable risk of sexual conduct involving a child.

76 Ethical Dilemmas My school recently filled a position called safe coordinator. The woman in this new position has a bachelor s degree and mo school counseling or related background. She is supposed to be the go-to person if a student is suicidal, abused, or has any other high-level concern. We have told administrators we are concerned about this position since we have two qualified school counselors on staff. Teachers have also indicated they have referred students to her, and she does not see them for serious issues. What is the school counselor s role in this situation? What if something serious happens but we were not informed? What are our responsibilities in this situation?

77 Guidance: No hard and fast rules. Collaborative skills are a necessary foundation for leadership, and without leadership advocacy efforts on behalf of students are affected. The title of School Counselor adds the additional responsibility to be inclusive of all faculty to the fullest extent possible though circumstances like this can make collaboration untenable. Try blending the two roles where professional school counselors perform the counseling and she designs behavior programs and interventions. Keep trying in subtle and overt ways to communicate with your administrator how student success has been affected in similar situations. Share potential solutions.

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