Record Keeping and the School Counselor.

A survey of elementary and middle school counselors revealed confusion and diverse practices regarding the storage, sharing, and destruction of counselors’ notes. A literature review found guidelines developed at a conference convened by the Russell Sage Foundation in 1969. This article categorizes student data according to how personal and stable the information is, and it offers clear-cut protocols for the storage, access, and destruction of these data. School counselors would be well served by adopting such guidelines. School counselors benefit from the ongoing work of the American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) Ethics Committee. Confidentiality, legal issues, and ethical decision making are frequently covered in journals, books, conferences, and workshops. On occasion, school counselors are called to testify in court, particularly in cases of child custody. Because most school counselors are not licensed as mental health professionals, but are certified as school personnel, the school counselor cannot guarantee confidentiality. Licensed mental health professionals take great care to thoroughly summarize client meetings, both to aid memory between sessions and for the therapist’s protection in documenting proposed or actual intervention. Courses and workshops that address the issue of record keeping and confidentiality for school counselors generally warn that keeping detailed notes can lead to the betrayal of any confidentiality the student may have presumed at the time the counseling session began. Another caution is that any records kept in school are the property of the school and are, therefore, subject to subpoena.

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