Applying Confidentiality in the School Setting


The profession of school counseling offers interesting, unique, and formidable ethical and legal responsibilities as well as challenges. Counseling sessions have to adhere to confidentiality, written policies, and protection of the victims. Different interventions can be undertaken to address confidentiality, especially on bullying cases.

Ethical Concerns Presented by the Situation

Confidentiality is core for counseling the student-counselor relationship. Ethical dilemmas usually arise out of counseling due to confidentiality issues (Stone, 2009). Confidentiality has to be discussed with students from the time the counselor-student relationship begins. This means that school counselor’s actions have to be in the best interest of the students. As an ethical issue, confidentiality should be a legal right accorded to students in a need of counseling. Counselors are usually charged with coming up with professional judgments, which will protect students. The school counselor is supposed to intervene on behalf of the students. It is expected that besides confiding in the students, school counselors should consider anonymous reporting. Confidentiality and elimination of violence should be a top priority for policy makers in education (Stone, 2009). The professional school counselor is supposed to protect the information given to them by students. This is usually specified by written policies, state laws and the ethical standards. Revealing of information to the third parties; for example, other counselors or the parents of the students require that the professional counselor inform the student first before the students can approve the disclosure of such information (Stone, 2009).

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The procedures of informed consent provide alternatives to students. A professional school counselor should adhere to the ethical practices associated with notifying the guardians or parents of a student for their consent to participate in issues affecting them. The choices regard to the intentions or behaviors, which require disclosure, the information to be disclosed as well as what is to remain private. Informed consent has an impact on providing students with decisions in the counseling process. For students the decision on whether to start counseling and disclose all sensitive personal information depends on the counselor’s assurances that the information will remain confidential.

Approaching the Situation by the School Counselor

The school counselor should approach the situation together with the student’s parents (Remley & Herlihy, 2010). This involves working in a multifaceted environment with the students in development of ethical codes, law, policies of the school board and the procedures involved in the counseling sessions. This is for the reason that parents own the rights of the privacy of the students while they are at school. The relationship between the student’s confidentiality and the stipulated legislation is vital in the protection of the students from being involved in any unnecessary legal actions (Remley & Herlihy, 2010). In counseling students, the counseling professions have to adhere to the laws of the state, written policies, and all the ethical standards. Assessment of the student’s academic records requires the involvement of different people including the administrators, counselors, supervisors, teachers, and other personnel at school (Stone, 2009). In order to have a professional relationship with the students, the principal supports the students, teachers, and other staff. The counselor only gathers the right comprehensive information from different sources. This particularly happens in situations where teachers are involved in an act. However, this information gathering is merely meant to assess the situation and share the possible solutions of such a problem by the counselor and the principal. The principal is involved in questioning about the counseling session’s content (Stone, 2009). An assistant principal can order for disclosure of sensitive information to take the necessary actions. This happens in line with the stipulated laws to avoid ethical dilemmas in practicing elementary counseling.

Interventions Undertaken to Address the Behavior

The counselor in addressing the situation of bullying at school can undertake different interventions. He or she can examine the implications of the courses of action undertaken and thereafter undertake an action, which incorporates other students who were also affected by the bullying. All the good and bad implications for each action have to be listed (Stone, 2009). In offering help, professional counselors should consider dual relationships. Dual relationships should be avoided completely as an ethical consideration in addressing bullying issues. This is for the reason that this relationship can bring about biasness in certain situations and thereby favor some students in one way or the other. Different counselors apply different interventions in the implementation of the appropriate courses of action to address bullying.

However, decision-making models should consider ethical standards within the complicated and multifaceted environment of students (Remley & Herlihy, 2010). This should not be only for individual therapy but also for academic instruction. The counselor can use school rules and law to compel the bully students to follow the requirements of the school authorities and assume full responsibilities for their actions (Stone, 2009). The counselor can outline various courses of action while considering the implications these actions could have for the parties involved in an act. The combination of options which best fits the scenario is then undertaken.


In summary, confidentiality is necessary in any counseling session involving students. Informed consent is sought before any information can be disclosed to other interested parties. The school counselor can approach the situation by considering the written policies, which relate to the issue. Additionally, different interventions can be undertaken to address the bullying issue depending on the counselor’s choices.

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