American School Counselor Association Ethical Standards for School Counselors

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  • 0:03 Seeking Out School Counseling
  • 0:42 Ethical Standards
  • 1:18 Students
  • 3:40 Parents, Schools & Self
  • 5:42 School Counselor Supervisors
  • 6:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

In this lesson, we'll review the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) code of ethics for school counselors. We'll also discuss issues related to parental rights, dual responsibilities, confidentiality, and responsibilities to students and school administrators.

Seeking Out School Counseling

Sandy is having issues with another student in school. The student is constantly directing insulting comments towards her and Sandy is at the point where she doesn't want to go to class anymore. Her mother is very concerned about the situation and thinks Sandy should speak to one of the school's counselors. She's worried, however, that the counselor will bring the matter to the other student's attention, which would only make this situation worse.

Let's take a look at the ethical responsibilities school counselors have towards students, parents, and themselves, and as school counselor supervisors, so that Sandy's mother can make a more informed decision before advising her daughter to seek out school guidance counseling.

School Counselor Ethical Standards

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is one of the branches of the American Counseling Association that provides school counselors and students who are studying school counseling with important professional resources and guidelines. One of these is the ASCA Code of Ethics, which details the ethical behavior expected of school counseling professionals in their relationships with students, parents, themselves, the school, and as school counselor administrators or supervisors. All of these roles, standards, and behavioral expectations ultimately boil down to a variety of professional school counselor responsibilities.


School counselor responsibilities lie first and foremost with their students. There are several ASCA ethical standards that guide the counselor/student relationship, ranging from being respectful and collaborative to promoting safety and ethical principles.

For starters, school counselors must support students and families by focusing on a holistic counseling approach that's respectful of diversity. Counselors must also maintain confidentiality at all times, unless legal requirements demand disclosure, such as when a situation poses serious threat of harm.

Students need to be informed about the limits of confidentiality when entering the counseling relationship. School counselors are also responsible for providing students with a comprehensive and data-based counseling curriculum. Data on counseling programs should be gathered to determine effectiveness.

Counselors should also avoid the formation of dual relationships whenever possible by refraining from providing counseling services to individuals who are especially close to the student. Providing appropriate referrals to outside resources through maintaining collaborative relationships with all stakeholders can be helpful too, as can facilitating group work and evaluating the effectiveness of such work through assessment and data collection.

It's also important to coordinate peer-to-peer support programs that allow for peer mediation and peer assistance, while monitoring the relationships. Informing the appropriate stakeholders when a student threatens harm to themselves or others is related to this responsibility. Threats can include physical or sexual abuse, neglect, dating violence, bullying, or sexual harassment.

Promoting a safe and respectful school environment that values diversity and values all students regardless of emotional, physical, or mental ability goes a long way towards creating a supporting environment, as does reporting all incidents of bullying, dating violence, and sexual harassment, in addition to all suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.

School counselors must abide by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act requirements in maintaining access to student records. Responsibilities in this vein include ensuring that only valid and reliable assessment instruments are used in evaluation and interpretation of collected student data and providing students with access to technical applications to maximize the student's development of academic, career, and life skills.

Adhering to the same ethical principles in face-to-face counseling situations and in virtual or distance counseling settings is also paramount to the ethical responsibilities of school counselors towards their students.

Parents, Schools, & Self

In addition to having ethical responsibilities guide school counselors' relationships with students, school counselors also have ethical responsibilities to parents, the respective schools they serve, and to themselves.

Counselor Responsibilities to Parents

School counselors recognize the importance of building effective and collaborative relationships with parents and/or guardians. As such, the following ethical standards are expected:

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