Privacy and the school counsellor

Margaret Nelson Agee
Vol 16, Number 1, p.17
Although a counsellor in a school is employed as a specialist member of the teaching staff, the counsellor's role is complex and is significantly different from that of colleagues. In safeguarding the rights of students, counsellors can find themselves needing to negotiate conflicts with colleagues, parents or employers, who hold different perspectives. Privacy issues are a particular area of concern in this context. In this paper, the role of counselling and guidance in schools is discussed. The relationship between privacy and trust is explored within the role and function of the counsellor. The concepts of privilege, confidentiality and informed consent, including the determination of competence, are examined with reference to relevant statute, ethical guidelines and research. Potential tensions between the roles, perspectives and responsibilities of counsellors and parents, teachers and principals are examined in relation to privacy issues. Recommendations are made for resolving such conflicts, including the clear definition of roles and responsibilities, developing shared understandings of differing perspectives, of ethical and legal guidelines and of ethical decision making processes, and developing appropriate training for deans and other members of guidance networks.