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Legal Issues in Education

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Today, schools encounter complicated situations and problems that need thorough help and counseling such as severe depression and suicidal ideation, pregnancy, substance abuse, school violence, and child abuse (qtd. by Herlihy, 1). However, school counselors must be aware of the ethical and legal issues that may arise when dealing with these kinds of needs (Herlihy, 1). When school counselors fail to provide a competent response or counsel, it may lead to serious legal problems. In this paper, some of the most important legal issues in education, specifically in the counselling field will be discussed. Hermann quoted that counselors face a very difficult task of assessing and counselling a student. If not properly handled, this may lead to serious malpractice lawsuit (1). That is why, counselors must know what these legal issues are and how are they going to prepare and be aware of the ways to properly assess the student’s needs.

In 2002, Hermann conducted a survey to identify the legal issues that are commonly encountered by counselors and to assess the frequency of these legal issues. The resulting legal issues are prominent legal issues that are known and very common in every school (qtd. by Hermann, 3).

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These legal issues are:

  1. Determining whether to report suspected child abuse
  2. Being Pressured to Verbally Reveal Confidential Information
  3. Being Asked to Turn Over Confidential Records
  4. Determining Whether a Client Posed a Danger to Others
  5. Determining Whether a Client Was Suicidal
  6. Being Subpoenaed to Appear as a Witness in a Legal Proceeding
  7. Clients Expressing Dissatisfaction with Participants’ Counseling Services

These are the top 7 legal issues that are commonly encountered in a school setting. According to the survey, having to determine if a student is suspected child abused and if the student is suicidal is the most prevalent legal issue that a school counselor encounter (Hermann, 3). “Price, Telljohann, and Wahl (1999) who reported that 74% of the respondents in their study indicated that at least one student had attempted suicide at the high school where the counselor was employed while the counselor was working there.”(qtd. by Hermann, 4). Second, determining whether the student is dangerous and poses a threat to other people is another top prevalent legal issue that is encountered by counselors. The least prevalent legal issues are being asked to issue a confidential documents and records, and being subpoenaed to testify as witness to a legal issue. Other legal issues such as sexual harassment of teachers to students and fellow students to students, statutory rape, and abortion in minors are also mentioned (Hermann, 3).

Knowledge of these prevalent legal issues is a very important tool in the success of school counselling to avoid malpractice lawsuits and other legal cases that can harm school counselors. Counselors must always be prepared for these legal issues if it may come. They should know how to deal properly and adequately to the needs of the client. Thus, through these knowledge, preparedness and awareness, counselors may be able to provide adequate and proper services for the students, also, minimizing the risk of unnecessary lawsuits and demands.

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