Ohio Policies & Procedures for School Psychologists

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

A school psychologist is a source of great support for students and families. The work of a school psychologist is governed by specific rules that contain ethical principles. This lesson explores those rules.

Ethics and Laws

A school psychologist is essential because this professional helps students, families, and community members to develop socially, academically, emotionally, and behaviorally. So that their decisions are in the best interest of others, some laws govern this type of work, which relies on ethical behavior. Let's analyze some of those policies as they apply in Ohio.


A referral by a school psychologist is the recommendation for the client to see another professional when needed. For example, Matt is a school psychologist. He currently provides assistance to Carolyn, a 9th-grade student whose parents are getting divorced. The divorce affects Carolyn's academic performance. Furthermore, Carolyn begins to vomit a lot and feels sick all the time. The school nurse has checked on Carolyn several times and can't find anything physically wrong. Even the doctor who sees Carolyn outside the school can't find anything wrong, and lab tests come back normal. Matt realizes he cannot assist Carolyn as the problem seems to be psychosomatic, which may require medication Matt cannot prescribe. Before he makes a referral, he consults with the school nurse and talks to Carolyn's parents to get more in-depth input about what the doctor said.

The Ohio Administrative Code includes in its Chapter 4732-17-01 some specifications about when a school psychologist can make a referral. The cases are when:

  1. The client requests. In our example, Carolyn's parents can request a referral or even Carolyn herself if she has enough awareness to realize she needs extra help.
  2. The referral is in the best interest of the client. In our example, it is in Carolyn's best interest to see a specialized physician who can determine the exact reason for her vomiting problems and prescribe medication if needed.

School psychologists cannot receive or give any form of remuneration to another professional as a consequence of the referral. For example, Matt can recommend a psychiatrist he knows/trusts, but this does not entitle Matt to ask the psychiatrist for a commission.


School psychologists make assessments of the academic, emotional, social, and behavioral development of students. They do this with the purpose of determining any needed approaches to help students improve. For example, Matt can give students a test that evaluates how well students face challenging academic assignments. In any type of test or evaluation that school psychologists use, they must follow certain rules:

  1. Informed consent is necessary. In the case of schools, parents or legal guardians give consent before an evaluation is given to their child.
  2. If there is a court order that requires a school psychologist to make an evaluation, they must inform the parents and student about the parameters the court order contains. The school psychologist must refrain from including personal opinions in the results of the evaluation.
  3. An evaluation requires tact and ethical behavior because it can influence a person. For this reason, the evaluation should not be a tool to exploit the trust of the evaluated person.
  4. Data used for evaluations is sensitive. This means that the school psychologist must communicate data in a way that is clear and objective. This is to prevent others from misinterpreting or misusing the information.
  5. The right to know about results of evaluations is restricted. A school psychologist must respect the right that students, parents, and other appropriate school members have to know about the results of an evaluation.
  6. Confidentiality is a requirement when it comes to evaluations because the school psychologist cannot just communicate results of an evaluation to people who have no part/interest in the results.

Disciplinary Procedures

Aside from ethical referrals and evaluations, some very specific conduct the law describes is prohibited. This conduct is due to students, parents, or any community members the school psychologists deal with in the context of their work. The conduct includes, but is not limited to, refraining from sexual harassment, intercourse, sexual language, use of stereotypes to try to impose conduct in others, engaging in financial, personal, or employment relationships with the people described above. Moreover, the school psychologist must treat all people in an equal way, which means to give them all the same opportunity to succeed or overcome their difficulties.

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