The School Counselor and Safe Schools and Crisis Response
(Adopted 2000; revised 2007, 2013, 2019)
ASCA PositionSchool counselors serves as leaders (ASCA, 2022; Oliver, Fleck, & Money-Brady, 2016) in safe-school initiatives. ASCA seeks to promote safe schools as can be noted in its many position statements, including Gun Safety, Promotion of Safe Schools through Conflict Resolution and Bullying/Harassment Prevention, Safe Schools and Crisis Response, and School Safety and the Use of Technology. Positive perceptions, school climate and overall school health are increased with schoolwide safety programming (Goodman-Scott & Grothaus, 2018).
The RationaleAll students need a safe, violence-free environment for learning. School counselors present themselves as a familiar, approachable resource to students, families and staff as they lead in schools, and they bridge communication between parties (Bray, 2016). Lapan, Wells, Petersen and McCann (2014) confirmed that the most positive protection for youth, both in and out of schools, is a connected school environment with responsive counseling services. Lapan et al. (2014) noted that this also helps to negate adverse effects of situations that could lead to risks. In their research of secondary students, Lapan et al. (2014) reported that those who felt their school counselor personally knew and responded to their concerns reported feeling safer and more connected in school.
The School Counselor's RoleSchool counselors are vital resources in preventing violent incidents, intervening when concerns arise about potential violence and responding when violence occurs (Jonson, 2017). Through the implementation of a school counseling program, school counselors promote school safety, avail themselves for disclosure of threats, redirect students engaging in unhealthy or unsafe behaviors and make mental health referrals as needed (Duplechian & Morris, 2014; Nijs, Bun, Tempelaar, de Wit, Burger, Plevier & Boks, 2014; Kingston, Mattson, Dymnicki, Spier, Fitzgerald, Shipman & Elliott, 2018). School counselors are familiar with the school community and knowledgeable about the roles of community mental health providers and first responders such as law enforcement officials and emergency medical responders (Cowan, Vaillancourt, Rossen & Pollitt, 2013)
Safe school and crisis response literature (Garran & Rasmussen, 2014; Rajan & Branas, 2018; Swartz, Osborne, DawsonEdwards & Higgins, 2016) suggests several important crisis prevention and response preparedness practices in which school counselors should engage, including:
- providing individual and group counseling
- advocating for student safety by recommending school personnel put consistent procedures, communication and policies in place
- providing interventions for students at risk of dropping out or harming self or others
- offering peer mediation training, conflict resolution programs and anti-bullying programs
- supporting student-initiated programs such as Students Against Violence Everywhere
- providing family, faculty and staff education programs
- facilitating open communication between students and caring adults
- defusing critical incidents and providing related stress debriefing
- participating in district and school response team planning and practices and helping ensure students and staff are able to process/understand crisis response drills
- promoting trauma-informed practices
- advocating for restorative justice programs
- partnering with community resources
SummarySchool counselors are leaders in safe school initiatives and actively engage themselves in fostering safety and in responding to critical response situations in schools. School counselors are a vital resource in preventing, intervening, and responding to crisis situations.
ReferencesAmerican School Counselor Association, (2022). ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors. Alexandria, VA: Author.
American School Counselor Association Position Statements. (2022). Alexandria, VA: Author.
Bray, B. (2019, January 18). The counselor’s role in ensuring school safety. Retrieved from https://ct.counseling.org/2016/08/counselors-role-ensuring-school-safety/
Cowan, K. C., Vaillancourt, K., Rossen, E., & Pollitt, K. (2013). A framework for safe and successful schools [Brief]. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Duplechian, R., & Morris, R. (2014). School violence: Reported school shootings and making schools safer. Education, 135(2), 145–150. Retrieved from http://0-search.ebscohost.com.oak.indwes.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=100 464126&site=ehost-live
Garran, A. M., & Rasmussen, B. M. (2014). Safety in the classroom: Reconsidered. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 34(4), 401–412. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2014.937517
Goodman-Scott, E., & Grothaus, T. (2017). RAMP and PBIS: “They Definitely Support One Another”: The results of a phenomenological study (part one). Professional School Counseling. https://doi.org/10.5330/1096-2409-21.1.119
Jonson, C. L. (2017). Preventing school shootings: The effectiveness of safety measures. Victims & Offenders, 12(6), 956–973. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/15564886.2017.1307293
Kingston, B., Mattson, S. A., Dymnicki, A., Spier, E., Fitzgerald, M., Shipman, K., & Elliott, D. (2018). Building schools’ readiness to implement a comprehensive approach to school safety. Clinical Child & Family Psychology Review, 21(4), 433–449. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-018-0264-7
Lapan, R. T., Wells, R., Petersen, J., & McCann, L. A. (2014). Stand tall to protect students: school counselors strengthening school connectedness. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92(3), 304–315.
Nijs, M. M., Bun, C. J. E., Tempelaar, W. M., de Wit, N. J., Burger, H., Plevier, C. M., & Boks, M. P. M. (2014). Perceived school safety is strongly associated with adolescent mental health problems. Community Mental Health Journal, 50(2), 127–134. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-013-9599-1
Oliver, B., Fleck, M., & Money-Brady, J. (2016). Superintendents & Principals: Partners in Success, Indiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation Study. Retrieved January 20, 2019 from http://share.indianachamber.com/media/Partners_in_Success.pdf
Rajan, S., & Branas, C. C. (2018). Arming school teachers: What do we know? Where do we go from here? American Journal of Public Health, 108(7), 860–862. Retrieved \from https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304464
Swartz, K., Osborne, D. L., Dawson-Edwards, C., & Higgins, G. E. (2016). Policing schools: Examining the impact of place management activities on school violence. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 41(3), 465–483. Retrieved from https://doi. org/10.1007/s12103-015-9306-6
Modzeleski, W., & Randazzo, M. R. (2018). School threat assessment in the USA: Lessons learned from 15 years of teaching and using the federal model to prevent school shootings. Contemporary School Psychology, 22(2), 109-115. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/10.1007/s40688-018-0188-8
Weiler, S. C., & Armenta, A. D. (2014). The fourth r—revolvers: Principal perceptions related to armed school personnel and related legal issues. Retrieved January 18, 2019 from Clearing House, 87(3), 115–118. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/00098655.2014.891891
Winer, J. P., & Halgin, R. P. (2016). Assessing and responding to threats of targeted violence by adolescents: A guide for counselors. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 38(3), 248-262. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/10.774/mehc.38.3.05
Young, A., Dollarhide, C. T., & Baughman, A. (2015). The voices of school counselors: Essential characteristics of school counselor leaders. Professional School Counseling, 19(1), 36-45.
*Note this position statement includes minor updates to reflect the revisions to the 2022 ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors.