Ethical Standards for School Counselors

Published: 2021-09-28 06:50:03
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Category: Justice, School, profession, Confidentiality

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Ethical Standards for School Counselors were adopted by the ASCA Delegate Assembly, March 19,1984, revised March 27, 1992, June 25, 1998, and June 26, 2004. Preamble The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is a professional organization whose members are certified/licensed in school counseling with unique qualifications and skills to address the academic, personal/social and career development needs of all students. Professional school counselors are advocates, leaders, collaborators and consultants who create opportunities for equity in access and success in educational opportunities by connecting their programs to the mission of schools and subscribing to the following tenets of professional responsibility:

Each person has the right to be respected, be treated with dignity and have access to a comprehensive school counseling program that advocates for and affirms all students from diverse populations regardless of ethnic/racial status, age, economic status, special needs, English as a second language or other language group, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, family type, religious/spiritual identity and appearance.

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Each person has the right to receive the information and support needed to move toward self-direction and self-development and affirmation within one’s group identities, with special care being given to students who have historically not received adequate educational services: students of color, low socio-economic students, students with disabilities and students with
Each person has the right to understand the full magnitude and meaning of his/her educational choices and how those choices will affect future opportunities.
Each person has the right to privacy and thereby the right to expect the counselor-student relationship to comply with all laws, policies and ethical standards pertaining to confidentiality in the school setting.

In this document, ASCA specifies the principles of ethical behavior necessary to maintain the high standards of integrity, leadership and professionalism among its members.The Ethical Standards for School Counselors were developed to clarify the nature of ethical responsibilities held in common by school counseling professionals. The purposes of this document are to:

Serve as a guide for the ethical practices of all professional school counselors regardless of level, area, opulation served or membership in this professional association;
Provide self-appraisal and peer evaluations regarding counselor responsibilities to students, parents/guardians, colleagues and professional associates, schools, communities and the counseling profession; and
Inform those served by the school counselor of acceptable counselor practices and expected professional behavior.

A. Responsibilities to Students
A. 1. Responsibilities to Students
The professional school counselor:

Has a primary obligation to the student, who is to be treated with respect as a unique individual.
Is concerned with the educational, academic, career, personal and social needs and encourages the maximum development of every student.
Respects the student’s values and beliefs and does not impose the counselor’s personal values.
Is knowledgeable of laws, regulations and policies relating to students and strives to protect and inform students regarding their rights.

A. 2. Confidentiality
The professional school counselor:

Informs students of the purposes, goals, techniques and rules of procedure under which they may receive counseling at or before the time when the counseling relationship is entered. Disclosure notice includes the limits of confidentiality such as the possible necessity for consulting with other professionals, privileged communication, and legal or authoritative restraints. The meaning and limits of confidentiality are defined in developmentally appropriate terms to students.
Keeps information confidential unless disclosure is required to prevent clear and imminent danger to the student or others or when legal requirements demand that confidential information be revealed. Counselors will consult with appropriate professionals when in doubt as to the validity of an exception.
In absence of state legislation expressly forbidding disclosure, considers the ethical responsibility to provide information to an identified third party who, by his/her relationship with the student, is at a high risk of contracting a disease that is commonly known to be communicable and fatal.

Disclosure requires satisfaction of all of the following conditions:

Student identifies partner or the partner is highly identifiable
Counselor recommends the student notify partner and refrain from further high-risk behavior
Student refuses
Counselor informs the student of the intent to notify the partner
Counselor seeks legal consultation as to the legalities of informing the partner

4. Requests of the court that disclosure not be required when the release of confidential information may potentially harm a student or the counseling relationship.

Protects the confidentiality of students’ records and releases personal data in accordance with prescribed laws and school policies. Student information stored and transmitted electronically is treated with the same care as traditional student records.
Protects the confidentiality of information received in the counseling relationship as specified by federal and state laws, written policies and applicable ethical standards. Such information is only to be revealed to others with the informed consent of the student, consistent with the counselor’s ethical obligation.
Recognizes his/her primary obligation for confidentiality is to the student but balances that obligation with an understanding of the legal and inherent rights of parents/guardians to be the guiding voice in their children’s lives.

A. 3. Counseling Plans
The professional school counselor:

Provides students with a comprehensive school counseling program that includes a strong emphasis on working jointly with all students to develop academic and career goals.
Advocates for counseling plans supporting students right to choose from the wide array of options when they leave secondary education. Such plans will be regularly reviewed to update students regarding critical information they need to make informed decisions.

A. 4. Dual Relationships
The professional school counselor:

Avoids dual relationships that might impair his/her objectivity and increase the risk of harm to the student (e. g. , counseling one’s family members, close friends or associates). If a dual relationship is unavoidable, the counselor is responsible for taking action to eliminate or reduce the potential for harm. Such safeguards might include informed consent, consultation, supervision and documentation.
Avoids dual relationships with school personnel that might infringe on the integrity of the counselor/student relationship.

A. 5. Appropriate Referrals
The professional school counselor:

Makes referrals when necessary or appropriate to outside resources.
Appropriate referrals may necessitate informing both parents/guardians and students of applicable resources and making proper plans for transitions with minimal interruption of services.
Students retain the right to discontinue the counseling relationship at any time.

A. 6. Group Work
The professional school counselor:

Screens prospective group members and maintains an awareness of participants’ needs and goals in relation to the goals of the group. The counselor takes reasonable precautions to protect members from physical and psychological harm resulting from interaction within the group.
Notifies parents/guardians and staff of group participation if the counselor deems it appropriate and if consistent with school board policy or practice.
Establishes clear expectations in the group setting and clearly states that confidentiality in group counseling cannot be guaranteed. Given the developmental and chronological ages of minors in schools, the counselor recognizes the tenuous nature of confidentiality for minors renders some topics inappropriate for group work in a school setting.
Follows up with group members and documents proceedings as appropriate.

A. 7. Danger to Self or Others
The professional school counselor:

Informs parents/guardians or appropriate authorities when the student’s condition indicates a clear and imminent danger to the student or others. This is to be done after careful deliberation and, where possible, after consultation with other counseling professionals.
Will attempt to minimize threat to a student and may choose to

inform the student of actions to be taken,
involve the student in a three-way communication with parents/guardians when breaching confidentiality or
allow the student to have input as to how and to whom the breach will be made.

A. 8. Student Records
The professional school counselor:

Maintains and secures records necessary for rendering professional services to the student as required by laws, regulations, institutional procedures and confidentiality guidelines.
Keeps sole-possession records separate from students’ educational records in keeping with state laws.
Recognizes the limits of sole-possession records and understands these records are a memory aid for the creator and in absence of privilege communication may be subpoenaed and may become educational records when they

1) are shared with others in verbal or written form,
2) include information other than professional opinion or personal observations and/or
3) are made accessible to others.
4. Establishes a reasonable timeline for purging sole-possession records or case notes. Suggested guidelines include shredding sole possession records when the student transitions to the next level, transfers to another school or graduates. Careful discretion and deliberation should be applied before destroying sole-possession records that may be needed by a court of law such as notes on child abuse, suicide, sexual harassment or violence.
A. 9. Evaluation, Assessment, and Interpretation
The professional school counselor:

Adheres to all professional standards regarding selecting, administering and interpreting assessment measures and only utilizes assessment measures that are within the scope of practice for school counselors.
Seeks specialized training regarding the use of electronically based testing programs in administering, scoring and interpreting that may differ from that required in more traditional assessments.
Considers confidentiality issues when utilizing evaluative or assessment instruments and electronically based programs.
Provides interpretation of the nature, purposes, results and potential impact of assessment/evaluation measures in language the student(s) can understand.
Monitors the use of assessment results and interpretations, and takes reasonable steps to prevent others from misusing the information.
Uses caution when utilizing assessment techniques, making evaluations and interpreting the performance of populations not represented in the norm group on which an instrument is standardized.
Assesses the effectiveness of his/her program in having an impact on students’ academic, career and personal/social development through accountability measures especially examining efforts to close achievement, opportunity and attainment gaps.

A. 10. Technology
The professional school counselor:

Promotes the benefits of and clarifies the limitations of various appropriate technological applications. The counselor promotes technological applications

 that are appropriate for the student’s individual needs,
 that the student understands how to use and
for which follow-up counseling assistance is provided.

2. Advocates for equal access to technology for all students, especially those historically underserved.
3. Takes appropriate and reasonable measures for maintaining confidentiality of student information and educational records stored or transmitted over electronic media including although not limited to fax, electronic mail and instant messaging.
4. While working with students on a computer or similar technology, takes reasonable and appropriate measures to protect students from objectionable and/or harmful online material.
5. Who is engaged in the delivery of services involving technologies such as the telephone, videoconferencing and the Internet takes responsible steps to protect students and others from harm.
A. 11. Student Peer Support Program
The professional school counselor:

Has unique responsibilities when working with student-assistance programs. The school counselor is responsible for the welfare of students participating in peer-to-peer programs under his/her direction.

B. Responsibilities to Parents/Guardians
B. 1. Parent Rights and Responsibilities
The professional school counselor:

Respects the rights and responsibilities of parents/guardians for their children and endeavors to establish, as appropriate, a collaborative elationship with parents/guardians to facilitate the student’s maximum development.
Adheres to laws, local guidelines and ethical standards of practice when assisting parents/guardians experiencing family difficulties that interfere with the student’s effectiveness and welfare.
Respects the confidentiality of parents/guardians.
Is sensitive to diversity among families and recognizes that all parents/guardians, custodial and non-custodial, are vested with certain rights and responsibilities for the welfare of their children by virtue of their role and according to law.

B. 2. Parents/Guardians and Confidentiality
The professional school counselor:

Informs parents/guardians of the counselor’s role with emphasis on the confidential nature of the counseling relationship between the counselor and student.
Recognizes that working with minors in a school setting may require counselors to collaborate with students’ parents/guardians.
Provides parents/guardians with accurate, comprehensive and relevant information in an objective and caring manner, as is appropriate and consistent with ethical responsibilities to the student.
Makes reasonable efforts to honor the wishes of parents/guardians concerning information regarding the student, and in cases of divorce or separation exercises a good-faith effort to keep both parents informed with regard to critical information with the exception of a court order.

C. Responsibilities to Colleagues and Professional Associates
C. 1. Professional Relationships
The professional school counselor:

Establishes and maintains professional relationships with faculty, staff and administration to facilitate an optimum counseling program.
Treats colleagues with professional respect, courtesy, and fairness. The qualifications, views and findings of colleagues are represented to accurately reflect the image of competent professionals.
Is aware of and utilizes related professionals, organizations, and other resources to whom the student may be referred.

C. 2. Sharing Information with Other Professionals
The professional school counselor:

Promotes awareness and adherence to appropriate guidelines regarding confidentiality, the distinction between public and private information and staff consultation.
Provides professional personnel with accurate, objective, concise, and meaningful data necessary to adequately evaluate, counsel, and assist the student.
If a student is receiving services from another counselor or other mental health professional, the counselor, with student and/or parent/guardian consent, will inform the other professional and develop clear agreements to avoid confusion and conflict for the student.
 Is knowledgeable about release of information and parental rights in sharing information.

D. Responsibilities to the School and Community
D. 1. Responsibilities to the School
The professional school counselor:

Supports and protects the educational program against any infringement not in students’ best interest.
Informs appropriate officials in accordance with school policy of conditions that may be potentially disruptive or damaging to the school’s mission, personnel and property while honoring the confidentiality between the student and counselor.
Is knowledgeable and supportive of the school’s mission and connects his/her program to the school’s mission.
Delineates and promotes the counselor’s role and function in meeting the needs of those served. Counselors will notify appropriate officials of conditions that may limit or curtail their effectiveness in providing programs and services.
Accepts employment only for positions for which he/she is qualified by education, training, supervised experience, state and national professional credentials and appropriate professional experience.
Advocates that administrators hire only qualified and competent individuals for professional counseling positions.
Assists in developing:

curricular and environmental conditions appropriate for the school and community,
educational procedures and programs to meet students’ developmental needs, and
a systematic evaluation process for comprehensive, developmental, standards-based school counseling programs, services, and personnel. The counselor is guided by the findings of the evaluation data in planning programs and services.

D. 2. Responsibility to the Community
The professional school counselor:

Collaborates with agencies, organizations, and individuals in the community in the best interest of students and without regard to personal reward or remuneration.
Extends his/her influence and opportunity to deliver a comprehensive school counseling program to all students by collaborating with community resources for student success.

E. Responsibilities to Self
E. 1. Professional Competence
The professional school counselor:

Functions within the boundaries of individual professional competence and accepts responsibility for the consequences of his/her actions.
Monitors personal well-being and effectiveness and does not participate in any activity that may lead to inadequate professional services or harm to a student.
Strives through personal initiative to maintain professional competence including technological literacy and to keep abreast of professional information.
Professional and personal growth are ongoing throughout the counselor’s career.

E. 2. Diversity
The professional school counselor:

Affirms the diversity of students, staff and families.
Expands and develops awareness of his/her own attitudes and beliefs affecting cultural values and biases and strives to attain cultural competence.
Possesses knowledge and understanding about how oppression, racism, discrimination, and stereotyping affects her/him personally and professionally.
Acquires educational, consultation, and training experiences to improve awareness, knowledge, skills, and effectiveness in working with diverse populations: ethnic/racial status, age, economic status, special needs, ESL or ELL, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, family type, religious/spiritual identity, and appearance.

F. Responsibilities to the Profession
F. 1. Professionalism
The professional school counselor:

Accepts the policies and procedures for handling ethical violations as a result of maintaining membership in the American School Counselor Association.
Conducts herself/himself in such a manner as to advance individual ethical practice and the profession.
Conducts appropriate research and report findings in a manner consistent with acceptable educational and psychological research practices. The counselor advocates for the protection of the individual student’s identity when using data for research or program planning.
Adheres to ethical standards of the profession, other official policy statements, such as ASCA’s position statements, role statement, and the ASCA National Model, and relevant statutes established by federal, state, and local governments, and when these are in conflict works responsibly for change.
Clearly distinguishes between statements and actions made as a private individual and those made as a representative of the school counseling profession.
Does not use his/her professional position to recruit or gain clients, consultees for his/her private practice, or to seek and receive unjustified personal gains, unfair advantage, inappropriate relationships, or unearned goods or services.

F. 2. Contribution to the Profession
The professional school counselor:

Actively participates in local, state, and national associations fostering the development and improvement of school counseling.
Contributes to the development of the profession through the sharing of skills, ideas, and expertise with colleagues.
Provides support and mentoring to novice professionals.

G. Maintenance of Standards
Ethical behavior among professional school counselors, association members, and nonmembers, is expected at all times. When there exists serious doubt as to the ethical behavior of colleagues or if counselors are forced to work in situations or abide by policies that do not reflect the standards as outlined in these Ethical Standards for School Counselors, the counselor is obligated to take appropriate action to rectify the condition.
The following procedure may serve as a guide:

The counselor should consult confidentially with a professional colleague to discuss the nature of a complaint to see if the professional colleague views the situation as an ethical violation.
When feasible, the counselor should directly approach the colleague whose behavior is in question to discuss the complaint and seek resolution.
If resolution is not forthcoming at the personal level, the counselor shall utilize the channels established within the school, school district, the state school counseling association, and ASCA’s Ethics Committee.
If the matter still remains unresolved, referral for review and appropriate action should be made to the Ethics Committees in the following sequence:

state school counselor association American School Counselor Association

5. The ASCA Ethics Committee is responsible for:

educating and consulting with the membership regarding ethical standards
periodically reviewing and recommending changes in code
receiving and processing questions to clarify the application of such standards; questions must be submitted in writing to the ASCA Ethics chair.

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