What information is kept confidential?
Under most circumstances, the information a student shares with the counselor is confidential. The dates and times of counseling appointments and/or counseling session notes are not kept in the student’s school file or any documents that are sent to colleges. If any information is to be disclosed to a source outside of NCSSM like a doctor or therapist, the student and parents must sign a release of exchange information form.
The need-to-know rule (FERPA) requires school counselors to reveal sensitive information only when the recipient of the information has a need to know and is in a position to benefit the student if they have the shared information. Without the assurance of confidentiality, many students would not seek our help. Breaching student confidentiality with teachers, parents and administrators requires continuously balancing the rights of students and parents against the criteria of need to know.
There are exceptions to confidentiality. If students are suspected of being a danger to themselves or others, the counselor will need to break confidentiality and reveal enough information to resolve the crisis. In addition, the counselors at NCSSM are state mandated reporters of suspected child abuse or neglect. If students are unsure if what they or a friend is thinking or experiencing will be kept confidential, they should feel free to ask the counselor for clarification before disclosing the information.
When would counselors contact parents? Do students have a say in what they find out?
NCSSM counselors will contact a student’s parents if we are concerned for that student’s safety. If this needs to happen, we will let the student know first and will explain the process. Usually this comes up if a student is having suicidal thoughts or has engaged in behavior that the counselor has deemed to be unsafe. NCSSM counselors may call parents to recommend outside services be put in place or, in the case of an emergency situation, we will have the student’s parents take them to have an immediate evaluation to ensure the student will receive the proper level of care to keep him or her safe. Otherwise, what is shared with NCSSM counselors is kept confidential.