December 2018

President’s Letter: Legal and Ethical Advocacy Supports

By Mindy Hall
Imagine starting a new job but finding that your school counseling program will be restricted due to expected CST and administrative duties. You try to create and implement a comprehensive school counseling program, but others keep defining your role with inappropriate school counseling duties such as IEP prescriptive goal writing with provision of weekly specialized individual therapy sessions or coordination of district and state standardized testing. Time spent on these inappropriate or non-school-counseling duties serving zero to five percent of the school population then prohibits you from delivering your school counseling core curriculum classroom lessons and small group sessions to support the entire school community.
 
I’d like to say the above scenario is fictional; however, it happened to me years ago and continues to occur in many districts to this day. Some administrators try to rationalize such duties as ways to justify the need for full-time counselors in their buildings. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you can turn to the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors for help.
 
In her article for ASCA, "The Use of Time: Appropriate and Inappropriate School Counseling Activities," Carolyn Stone, Ed.D., discusses the importance of the Ethical Standards, especially B.2.c. Advocate for a school counseling program free of non-school counseling assignments identified by "The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs" as inappropriate to the school counselor's role. The rationale behind the inclusion of this standard was to provide school counselors with ethical leverage to advocate for the elimination of inappropriate activities.
 
Stone’s article serves as a helpful teaching tool when explaining school counseling program activities to administrators. She cautions however, that Standard B.2.c is not a weapon and suggests that the school counselor as an advocate should use a great deal of political acumen when referring to the B.2.c. standard. “Raising awareness of barriers that prohibit the implementation of a comprehensive program is advocacy; however, knowing how to negotiate the political landscape is effective advocacy.”  Stone warns that failure to understand the political climate and act in appropriate ways to advocate is just as damaging as not advocating at all.
 
Beyond advocating to help all students by bringing light to non-school-counseling duties, school counselors face even more challenging legal and ethical dilemmas on a frequent basis. To help support New Jersey counselors when handling a crisis, NJSCA has paired with NJPSA-Legal One to provide helpful workshops. The next is scheduled on January 23, 2019. Learn more about the training: Responding to Kids in Crisis – Role of the Counselor 1/23/19 Training
 
No matter what dilemma school counselors face, they should not attempt to go it alone. Make sure to consult with administrators and, when necessary, your district solicitor. Should you need further guidance and support from ASCA, please see the article in this issue, and visit these useful links:

ASCA Position Statements
Legal and Ethical Articles written for ASCA (ASCA member login required)
 
Contact Mindy Hall, M.Ed., M.A., SAC, NJSCA president, at mhall@mtps.com.