School counselors are not provided confidentiality or privileged communication by law with the exception of a case where a student is seeking help to overcome a drug and/or alcohol problem. However, confidentiality guidelines exist in a variety of professional and legal documents.
The American School Counselor's Association code of ethics and the code of ethics of the American Counseling Association direct counselors to consider information confidential unless the client indicates that he/she intends to harm himself/herself or another person or unless the client gives written permission for the disclosure of information to another person or agency.
The Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR 13A.08.02.04.B) provides for confidentiality of student records: "Individual student records maintained by teachers or other school personnel under the provision of this title are to be confidential in nature, and access to these records may be granted only for the purpose of serving legitimate and recognized educational ends." Although counselor notes are not considered a part of the student record, this same confidentiality is maintained with information only being shared with individuals who have a legitimate, recognized, educational need to have the information. (For example, the pending divorce of a student's parents would not be shared with a teacher if the student is continuing to meet educational expectations. If the student's educational performance has changed, the counselor may share the information regarding the pending divorce with the teacher in an effort to assist him/her in understanding a potential reason for the decline in performance.
Annotated Code of Maryland 7- 412 provides for counselors and others to keep information confidential related to a student pursuing help to overcome a drug and/or alcohol problem: "If a student seeks information to overcome any form of drug abuse...from a teacher, counselor, principal or other professional educator employed by an educational institution...a statement, whether oral or written, made by the student or an observation or conclusion derived from the statement is not admissible against the student in any proceeding. A rule, regulation, or order may not require the disclosure of any report, statement, observation, conclusion, or other information that has been assembled or obtained by an educator through this contact."
Although a broad definition of confidentiality is not provided to counselors by law, it is expected that counselors will handle information regarding students in an ethical manner. Counselors will not share information with others except when an individual has a legitimate, recognized, educational need to have the information; when a student intends to harm himself/herself or another individual; when a parent of a student or an emancipated student provides a written statement authorizing the release of information; or in other situations as provided by COMAR. Counselors will, by law, keep information confidential regarding a student who is pursuing help in overcoming a drug or alcohol problem.
Carroll County Public Schools, and therefore counselors, desire to link with parents whenever practical and appropriate in an effort to meet the needs of students. It is expected that counselors will use sound judgement in contacting parents whenever appropriate and necessary to assist in the resolution of student concerns. The counselor must be in contact with the parent in the case of a potential suicide. Information may be shared with parents within the limits stated by law.