Student Diversity & Equality Issues in School Counseling

Instructor: Allyn Torres

Allyn has taught high school chemistry, and has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction.

In this lesson you will learn about the equality issues that school counselors face and strategies that can be implemented to identify and help eliminate inequality in schools.

Equality and Diversity Are Important Issues

Sarah is in fifth grade. She recently changed schools because her family moved across the country. At her old school there were kids of all different ethnicities and backgrounds. Everyone was different, but students got along and accepted their differences. In Sarah's new school, everyone looks the same, except for Sarah. The other kids don't let Sarah sit with them at lunch because she doesn't look like they do. This makes Sarah sad, and she doesn't understand, but she doesn't know what to do. Sarah's situation and many other issues come up in schools more often than we probably realize. It is the job of school counselors to address these issues. Keep reading to learn more about the issues that arise in school counseling as well as some of the solutions.

A school counselor working with students

Issues in School Counseling

It is important that school counselors be well-versed in cross-cultural education (addressing many cultures/countries). They must be ready and able to work with students of all cultures. A counselor must be able to understand and identify the issues faced by students who come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, religious groups, social classes, etc. Some common issues include:

  • Racial/cultural inequality
  • Domestic violence
  • LGBTQ challenges
  • The achievement gap

Unfortunately, many students face social injustices; their school counselors need to know how to help them. Social injustice occurs when people of different races, ethnicities, cultures, etc., are given unequal treatment. Low income students and students who belong to ethnic minority groups are typically more likely to experience social injustice. A school counselor is tasked with teaching students how to recognize social injustice and fix the problem even if they are not the ones experiencing the injustice personally. It is especially important that counselors teach students to speak out against injustice because those injustices do not always occur in the counselor's sight, or even in school necessarily. Counselors should educate students about racism, domestic violence, the issues that the LGBTQ community face, and more.

A hot button issue in education today is the achievement gap, a significant difference in test scores between two groups, often low-income students and those who are from higher income families.

Counselors may need to guide students through the development of their identities. Students may struggle to figure out where they ''fit in'' or with conflicting identities. For example, a student may have been raised in a religiously strict household, so he identifies as a member of that religion. As the student gets older, however, he may also identify as gay. The two identities conflict and can cause great pain and distress for the student.

Similarly, a student may be dealing with an identity that her parents have put on her that she no longer agrees with. Her parents may have told her that they expected her to grow up and become a doctor one day. She may realize that as she gets older, she wants to be an artist instead.

In both cases, counselors must be well-versed in these issues in order to help students through identity crises.

Strategies for Identifying and Eliminating Inequalities

In order to identify inequalities, school counselors need to be involved with the student population. They must speak with students and observe student interaction often. They can collect data from student observation and surveys to inform them about the issues present in their specific school. There are many strategies that can help address, and hopefully eliminate, inequalities.

School-wide initiatives

Some schools have implemented school-wide initiatives to educate their students. Schools can organize events that specifically teach about cultural diversity. They can have assemblies to teach about different cultures. Some schools use a ''world awareness program.'' Every month has a different theme that deals with acceptance and tolerance.

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