December 2017

Take a Position

By Mark Boggie, Shawn Bultsma and Katherine Pastor
Practicing school counselors know that, just when you think you’ve seen it all, something new walks through the door. To assist in managing such challenges, ASCA creates and maintains position statements based on issues that can affect students’ academic, career and social/emotional development. The position statements create a global position and clarify the school counselor’s role on a variety of issues, which, in the absence of such guidance, might be subject to differences in philosophy between educators, their administrators and community stakeholders.
 
The 41 current position statements are designed to provide general guidelines of how a reasonable school counselor would think and act regarding the sometimes-complex issues. Each position statement must be consistent with the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors and other ASCA documents.
 
Similar to the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors, school counselors should consider the ASCA position statements foundational documents of the profession. Knowledge of these statements and their value is critical for every school counseling professional. 

Make Your Case

Consider these scenarios and the statements that help inform a school counselor’s response.
A new family has moved into your school attendance zone. In the initial meeting the parents tell you their child has an individual education plan (IEP) for specific learning disabilities and behavioral issues. The parents expect the new school to make the same accommodations as the previous school. The IEP states the student will meet with the school counselor on a weekly basis for one hour and have daily check-ins. It also states the school counselor will be available whenever the student needs to have a timeout for behavioral management. As a school counselor implementing a comprehensive school counseling program, what would be your reaction?
 
Although there are appropriate ways to include accommodations delivered by the school counselor in an IEP, long-term therapy is not one. Two position statements inform this particular point: The School Counselor and Students with Disabilities and The School Counselor and Student Mental Health. Well-meaning parents and special education staff often ask that an IEP include regular meetings between a school counselor and an individual student. However, such meetings are contrary to a school counselor’s role and responsibility. 
 
Both of these position statements emphasize that school counselors should consider requests for long-term interventions to be outside their role and responsibility to the student and school. The issue becomes greater as more and more IEPs are generated defining the school counselors’ time and taking them away from the time needed to implement a comprehensive school counseling program serving all students. An appropriate solution would be for school counselors to employ appropriate indirect services through a referral process to meet the student’s needs.
 
The administration at your school is asking the school counseling staff to take on the added responsibility of test coordination for the state’s new accountability measurement. As a school counselor implementing a comprehensive school counseling program what would be your reaction?

School counselors participate in fair-share assignments outside of their defined role to assist the school operation. As noted in The School Counselor and High-Stakes Testing position statement, however, serving as test coordinators, which includes administrative and clerical activities, should not be one of them.
 
The statement points out that these inappropriate activities prevent school counselors from having a positive impact on student achievement, school climate and the school’s academic mission. As outlined in this position statement, school counselor time would be better spent addressing student academic needs in the areas of test-taking skills, time-management skills and stress management within the scope of a comprehensive school counseling program.
 
Your state school counselor association has announced a day on the hill event and has asked you to provide material for leave-behind packets for the legislators. Discussions at the state level have centered around two main topics: school safety and bullying. Where could you find material supporting your role as a school counselor?
 
Here’s yet another use for the ASCA position statements. Two statements in particular address the concerns your state school counselor association members have: The School Counselor and Promotion of Safe Schools through Conflict Resolution and Bullying/Harassment Prevention and The School Counselor and Safe Schools and Crisis Response. These statements can serve as advocacy tools for legislative initiatives supporting the work of school counselors as they manage programs that serve all students.

Ever-Evolving Statements

The position statements are updated approximately every five years. Each year the Position Statement Committee also discusses the need for any new position statements as the education landscape evolves. Recent new position statements include The School Counselor and Transgender/Gender-Nonconforming Youth.
 
In forming an official policy, The School Counselor and Transgender/Gender-Nonconforming Youth position statement helped district school counselors engage in relevant discussion. “With the position statements being research-based, it took the guesswork out for our school counselors. It also helped the school counselors advocate for our students and show leadership by sharing the position statement with the school district as the district itself began developing a policy,” said Katherine Pastor, school counselor, Flagstaff High School, Flagstaff, Ariz.
 
Make this be the year you resolve to take full advantage of the ASCA position statements. Access the ASCA position statements on all 41 topics.
 
Mark Boggie is dean of student success at Cochise College and co-chair of ASCA’s Position Statement Committee. Contact him at boggiemark@gmail.com. Shawn Bultsma, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Grand Valley State University and co-chair of ASCA’s Position Statement Committee. Contact him at bultsmas@gvsu.edu. Katherine Pastor is a school counselor at Flagstaff High School in Flagstaff, Ariz., and was the 2016 School Counselor of the Year. She can be reached at kpastor@fusd1.org.