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Racial Justice and School Counselors

By Matthew McClain | November 2021

Many things fall on the plate of school counselors, but to whom does racial justice belong in the school building? Our role includes advocating for students, and this includes situations of racial justice. There are many articles and videos of people running for school boards who are very vocal in opposition to the teaching of critical race theory. Our interaction with students does not have to include discussions specifically around critical race theory, but ways in which we can support them as an individual.

Sometimes we are the only voice that advocates on behalf of students. This is especially true for underrepresented populations. Our role is unique in the fact that many times we are the only trained mental health professional in the school building. We are positioned to see the effects of systemic oppression and have the opportunity advocate for change. In thinking about this article, I asked myself, “Who am I to have an opinion on this topic, as a seemingly white man?” But then I thought, “I can use the inherent privilege that comes with that to be a voice, an advocate, an ally to my students and colleagues.” In doing my own readings to further my knowledge of how to best support racial justice at school, something that stuck out to me was that it is my duty to speak out, use my voice and be an agent of change. It is not enough to just not perpetuate racial inequities; I must speak out against them. Is it uncomfortable to call out a colleague? Yes, but is it making a stand for racial justice? Also, yes.

If colleagues and students see that we school counselors stand up for all students and do not tolerate racial injustice, this creates a boundary but also endears us to students who need us to be on their side. There are many times when our opinions and suggestions are not popular with other educators, as we may suggest what is right – which can also mean it is difficult to accomplish. Educators are tired, but we cannot use our exhaustion to not be a voice, a body, an ally to stand against racial injustices. We need to push beyond that exhaustion and provide options to create racial justice in our buildings. At the end of the day, we are used to advocating and educating others on our role, so let’s add leader of racial justice to those descriptors.

CSCA believes in this work. We have created an ad hoc committee that is focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion. This committee is evaluating CSCA documents and policies and will inform us on our future work.

Contact Matthew McClain, CSCA executive director, at