Continuing Education & Resources for Mental Health Professionals

Ethical Practice Model Adapted for Schools

Protecting Confidentiality Rights: An Ethical Practice Model
(Adapted for Use in School Settings)

[Italics indicate how laws fit into the ethical model]

STEP 1: PREPARE

A. Understand Rights of All Parties and Ethical Responsibilities in Their Behalf

Rights of Student; Parents; Teachers; School Administrators; Staff; Others

 B. Learn Relevant State and Federal Laws That Affect Confidentiality

Laws That Support You in Protecting Confidentiality
Laws That Limit Your Ability to Protect Confidentiality

C. Learn the Local School Policies that Affect Confidentiality

Policies That Support You in Protecting Confidentiality
Policies That Limit Your Ability to Protect Confidentialit

D. Clarify Personal Ethical Position Ab. Confidentiality & its Limits in This Setting

                        (E.g., Decide When/How You Will Limit Confidentiality Voluntarily)

E. Choose Reliable Ethics Consultants and Legal Consultants and Use as Needed

F. Plan Ethical Response to Laws/Policies That Require You To Disclose “Involuntarily”

G. Devise Informed Consent Forms that Reflect Your Real Intentions

H. Prepare to Discuss Confidentiality Limits w/ All Parties
                 in Understandable Language

STEP 2: TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT CONFIDENTIALITY AND ITS LIMITS

A. Inform All Parties About Confidentiality Rule and Its Limits
                        Explain the Basic Rule (e.g., “I will not ordinarily disclose without your consent”)
                        Explain Voluntary Exceptions to the Rule
                        Explain Legally-Imposed Exceptions to the Rule

B. Inform about Other Factors That Might Influence Their Willingness to Participate 

C. Inform About Right to Decline to Participate & Consequences of Declining

D. Explain Any Roles or Potential Conflicts of Interest That Might Affect Confidentiality

E. Obtain Assent from Informed Student and Consent from Informed Parent or Guardian

F. Reopen the conversation as needed.

STEP 3: OBTAIN INFORMED CONSENT BEFORE DISCLOSING VOLUNTARILY

A. Respect the Confidentiality Rule: Disclose Consent Only if Legally Unavoidable

B. Inform Students/Parents About Content/Implications of a Potential Disclosure

C. Obtain and Document Consent Before Disclosing

STEP 4: RESPOND ETHICALLY TO LEGAL DEMANDS FOR DISCLOSURE

A. Notify Client(s) of any Pending Legal Demand for a Disclosure

B. Respond to Laws According to Plan (from Step 1,E above)

C. Limit Disclosure of Confidential Information to Extent Allowed by Law & Policy

STEP 5: AVOID PREVENTABLE BREACHES OF CONFIDENTIALITY

A. Establish and Maintain Protective Policies and Procedures; Train Staff

B. Monitor Note Taking, Report Writing, and Record Keeping Practices

C. Anticipate Legal Demands

D. Protect Student Identity in Presentations, Consultations

STEP 6: TALK ABOUT CONFIDENTIALITY

A. Model Ethical Practices; Confront Unethical Practices

B. Provide Peer Consultation About Laws Affecting Confidentiality

C. Teach Ethical Practices to Students, Supervisees, Employees, Agency, Institution      

  Adapted From:  Fisher, M.A. (2008).
Available online at http://www.CenterForEthicalPractice.org/EthicalPracticeModel_Adapted

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