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Web-based resources for legal and ethical issues in school counseling.

School counselors have a continuing need for accurate, contemporary information regarding legal and ethical issues. The authors of this article identify major sources of legal and ethical information relevant to school counselors that is available on the World Wide Web. Summaries and Web addresses are provided for major Web sites that address legal and ethical issues in school counseling. These sites were viewed by the author May 29 through June 14, 2002 and could be subject to change.


In the past 10 years, school counselors have gained access to many Web-based professional materials. Web sites sponsored by professional associations, the government, educational institutions, and private organizations have contributed to the wealth of knowledge available on the World Wide Web.

The Internet is an indispensable tool for school counselors who require information that can be accessed easily, is inexpensive, and is relatively harmless. The World Wide Web is only one of the many valuable components that comprise the Internet. Along with sites that can be accessed from the Web, list-serves, e-mail technology, bulletin board discussion groups, and videoconferencing are elements of the Internet that allow school counselors access to the most pertinent information available regarding counseling and allow them to communicate with other professionals in counseling. Many organizations and professionals associated with mental health are developing Web sites on a daily basis. This influx allows counselors access to valid information on specific topics that is current, convenient, and virtually limitless (Jackson & Davidson, 1996).

The preamble of the American School Counseling Association's Ethical Standards for School Counselors details the basic tenant that "Each person has the right to privacy and thereby the right to expect the counselor-client relationship to comply with all laws, policies, and the ethical standards pertaining to confidentiality" (American School Counselor Association, 2002). The Ethical Standards make clear that the professional school counselor "is responsible for keeping informed of laws, regulations, and policies relating to counselors and strives to ensure that the rights of counselees are adequately provided for and protected" (American School Counselor Association). These statements accentuate the professional obligation of professional school counselors to stay informed on legal and ethical issues. In order to stay abreast of legal and ethical issues in school counseling, school counselors will have to use information that is both current and accessible. While reading books and attending workshops are helpful, the best source of information is the Web. This article provides useful information about Web sites that can be consulted when legal and ethical issues arise.

Kuranz (2002) has suggested that the Internet, along with other forms of technology, must be used in order to help school counselors in their relationships with students. Kuranz also suggested that there is a need for guidelines concerning information transmitted over the Internet by school counselors and students. It is important for school counselors to maintain the confidentiality of student information that is sent using the Internet. School counselors should also be concerned regarding the validity and reliability of information that is obtained from Internet sources and Web sites. Sampson (2000) commented, "It is possible to deliver interpretive information on the Internet that is attractively presented but inherently invalid." Nevertheless, Sampson stated that both new as well as experienced counselors need to be skillful in using the Internet, familiar with counseling-related sites, and capable of assessing the quality of such sites. This article provides school counselors with useful information about various Web sites related to legal and ethical issues in school counseling.

There are a number of issues to consider when assessing the quality of a particular Web site. Questions regarding the age of the material, the author's credentials, and the source of the material are essential. It should also be noted that because each legal or ethical challenge is unique, information acquired on the Web is not a substitute for consultation with other professional school counselors or school principals when ethical and legal problems arise. Despite its limitations, the Web remains an excellent tool for school counselors when addressing legal and ethical issues.


The Web sites listed below are grouped according to the type of sponsor for the site. Sponsors of sites include professional associations, federal and state government agencies, private groups, and educational institutions. It should be noted that there is no guarantee that the material on these sites is accurate or researched. All Web sites must be assessed individually for their quality. While this list is not exhaustive, it does provide a number of Web sites that will aid school counselors in beginning searches for information on the Web related to legal and ethical issues in school counseling. (These sites were viewed by the author May 29 through June 5, 2002 and could be subject to change.)

Professional Sponsored Sites

American School Counselor Association

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) provides both legal and ethical information that is relevant for school counselors.

A link titled "About ASCA" located at provides school counselors with access to Ethical Standards for School Counselors at (ASCA, 2002).

The ASCA site includes a number of Position Statements at which contain valuable guidelines for ethical practice in a variety of situations. There is also a search engine on the site that leads users to legal and ethical topics.

The ASCA School Counselor Magazine is available online to ASCA members. Members can access this page from a link on the home page rifled "Resources and Publications" or it is available at L1=7&L2=1&L3=0&L4=0&PubID=9. There are current as well as archival issues of the magazine available online. In terms of ethics, the 2002 edition rifled Get the Word Out includes an article rifled "Ethics" by the current ASCA Ethics Committee Chairperson, Dr. Gloria Dansby-Giles. The article contains steps and tips that can guide school counselors through ethical decision making. Additionally, legal and ethical columns are available in the online magazine issues.

The National Professional Group

The National Professional Group is the insurance company offering professional liability insurance to ASCA members. This company maintains a Web page rifled "Understanding the Legal Process" at This site provides advice that can be helpful if school counselors are ever confronted with a complaint or subpoena or if they are required to participate in a deposition.

American Counseling Association

The American Counseling Association (ACA) furnishes the ACA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice online at

In addition, Ethical Standards for Internet Online Counseling are available at this site. These guidelines may be useful if school counselors are considering providing online counseling for students or if they receive e-mail messages from students regarding problems or concerns of a confidential nature. The ACA site also includes "A Practitioner's Guide to Ethical Decision Making" at

The ACA Web site provides access to online courses related to law and ethics at including: "Legal and Ethical Issues for Working With Minors in Schools," "Legal Aspects of Counseling," and "Ethical Decision-Making in Counseling Relationships." This site also provides links to a multitude of state branch and division Web sites that provide both ethical and legal information that may be more regional and specific in nature. The North Carolina School Counselor Association, for example, has a list of ethical Internet resources at (Hamilton, 2002). A search engine on the ACA site allows searches for additional legal and ethical topics.

National Board for Certified Counselors

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Code of Ethics, "The Practice of Internet Counseling," and "Ethical Process and Procedures" can be found at

Many state counseling licensure boards have individual codes of ethics. A link to the individual state licensure boards can be found on the NBCC site at

American Bar Association

The American Bar Association (ABA) site contains multiple sections and links to the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government, courts, and law school libraries. As an example of excellent information found at this site, the ABA Center of Children and the Law at allows school counselors to download a sample copy of Child Law Practice [18, 3] May, 1999. An article titled "Tips for Caseworkers on Testifying in Court" (Baker, 1999) is on pages 44-46. The article contains excellent suggestions that could apply to school counselors testifying in court.

By selecting "useful links" ( on the sidebar located on the main page, site users are provided with a plethora of state and national Web sites with helpful information for child advocates. The links range in variety from information regarding legal issues surrounding abuse to adoption. There are also links to Web sites that provide information on child custody or special education.

State bar association sites often provide information about state laws that may interest school counselors. A number of sites contain documents on specific topics. For example, the North Carolina Bar Association site located at has a "Public" section which includes 13 pamphlets on North Carolina law topics including AIDS/HIV Infections and the Law, Family Violence, Child Custody, Visitation Rights, and Support. These can be accessed directly from In the Public section there is also a printable coloring book, A Day with a Lawyer, located at (Citizenship Education Committee of the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association, 1995) which can help young children understand both what lawyers do and what happens in court.

National School Board Association Council of School Attorneys

One of the many highlights of this site is a new section, "West's Newest Links," which includes education law case decisions This section is updated daily and can be accessed from the home page. Other helpful sections that can be accessed through the home page include the following: "Highlights," which describes important legislation; "The Supreme Court," which provides and describes rulings handed down from the United States Supreme Court; and a section titled "What's New," which presents information by topic such as liability, student rights, and equity/discrimination. There is also a link labeled "Other E-Sources" that provides the school counselor with additional Web sites that will be useful in searching for legislation related to schools.

National School Board Association

Parts of the current American School Board Journal site, including a section titled "School Law" located at, are available through this Web site. At, school counselors can find archived articles on a variety of topics such as academic freedom, desegregation and race-based admissions, employment, facilities use, federal funding, first amendment and dress codes, harassment, liability, privacy, religion, school governance, school security and discipline, special education, and vouchers.

National Association of Secondary School Principals

This site is full of educational law information. "Legal Lowdown" at, is a section that covers current areas of interest. Past topics from this section are available in the "Legal Lowdown" archives. Additionally, school counselors can gain access to a "Legal Resources" section at through the "Legal Lowdown" site. This resource site lists some of the major educational law resources available on the World Wide Web.

School counselors can access selected articles from the NASSP Bulletin through the NASSP home page or directly at A March, 2002, article, by Milsom (2002), "Suicide Prevention in Schools: Court Cases and Implications for Principals," is available.

Education Law Association

This association's membership is made up of educational and legal professionals. The site includes a "Links" section at that directs site users to education law resources listed in four categories: Legal Search Engines/Directories, Federal Government Sources (U.S. Supreme Court, Senate, etc.), Online Publications, and Associations/Organizations.

American Psychological Association

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers portions of Monitor on Psychology at this site. For example, the May, 2002, issue includes an article, "Must a Psychologist Report Past Child Abuse?" (Behnke & Kinscberff, 2002). There is a column in each issue rifled "Judicial Notebook" at which can be helpful to school counselors. Past Web issues are also archived on the site.

Federal and State Government Sponsored Sites

U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education Web site has a number of sections on the home page that can be helpful to school counselors in terms of legal and ethical issues. The Web site labeled "Policy" at includes legislation, regulations, and policy guidance. This site includes information on educational civil rights, sex discrimination, and access to state organizations that can provide legislative information that is specific to a particular state. A section titled "Principals" at is also appropriate for school counselors to obtain legal information. This section includes topics pertaining to such issues as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504, and civil fights issues. Sections for teachers, parents, and students also contain relevant information for school counselors.

Links to two beneficial Web sites for school counselors can be accessed through the Department of Education site. The first is maintained by the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights at This site includes sections titled "Know Your Rights," "Prevention," "Civil Rights Data," "About OCR," "Reading Room," and "Related Links." The "What's New" and "Frequently Asked Questions" sections are also valuable. School counselors will find multiple documents on this site useful. Examples of topics that can be accessed through this site include sex discrimination, race and national origin discrimination, disability discrimination, developing policies to avoid discrimination, and the Office of Civil Rights complaint process.

The second site is maintained by the Family Policy Compliance Office at This site has information on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). An ambitious project to develop a collection of documents on FERPA and PPRA is in the process and has not yet been completed. Much of the valuable information for this site is found in links on the home page. School Counselors can access FERPA documents at The information that can be accessed includes a FERPA Fact Sheet, FERPA Regulations, and FERPA Legislative History. There is also information on the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment.

The link titled "Publications" at the Family Policy Compliance Office Web site located at will lead school counselors to a lengthy document rifled "Sharing Information: A Guide to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act" and "Participation in Juvenile Justice Programs" (Medaris, Campbell, & James, 1997) or the document can be accessed directly at

One drawback of Family Policy Compliance Office Web site is that parts of the site have not been updated since 2000. The "Hot Topics" section at Topics.html does include information dated 2002 about changes to FERPA and PPRA. This site should be visited periodically for new information.

State Supreme Court Sites

State legal sites vary in content that may be helpful to professional school counselors. Most states have state court sites. The North Carolina Supreme Court Library Web site located at, for example, has a nine-page list of links for Internet legal research.

Most state Attorney General's offices also offer Web sites. These sites can be valuable because the information is state specific. A number of the Web sites supply information from the state's attorney general on various topics and provide other valuable data. The North Carolina Attorney General's Web site at has, for example, a "Citizen's Rights Division" at that includes a child abuse section. The section rifled "Child Sexual Abuse Guidelines: Recommendations for Professionals" at (Easley, 1998), which can be accessed from the Citizen's Rights Division site, was developed for use by professionals in many job settings. School counselors can also order materials that can be used to familiarize children regarding the court system from information provided on this site.

State Legislative Sites

Most states have state legislative sites which may be searched by topic or bill number. Some of these sites also have sections listing newly enacted bills or bills being considered by topic or area.

State Education Agency Sites

State education agency sites often have sections listing or discussing legislative educational topics. Many sites have sections provided by state education agency attorneys dealing with education law and policy.

Privately Sponsored Sites

National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information

School Counselors will find a wealth of information related to child abuse and neglect as well as child welfare at this site. A Web site that can be accessed from the home page tided "State Statutes" located at includes sections such as the "Overview of the Child Abuse and Neglect State Statutes Elements" (reporting laws, central registries, reporting records, investigations, child witnesses, crimes, permanency planning, and domestic violence), "Statutes at a Glance Summaries," "Ready Reference Listings," and "Issue Papers." The reporting laws include definitions of child abuse and neglect, mandatory reporters, immunity for reporters, penalties for failure to report, penalties for false reporting, and reporting procedures. These documents can provide school counselors with a reference to their state statute and additional information that is state specific. There are Spanish versions of many of the documents and information presented on the Web site.

The Alan Guttmacher Institute

The Alan Guttmacher Institute is an institute that focuses on policy issues associated with sexual and reproductive health as well as a commitment to education of the public on these issues. Through the "law and public policy" link at school counselors can access policy papers concerning teen pregnancy trends, sex education, state policies on sexuality, minors and health care consent. The link labeled "youth" that accesses the policy papers at contains information on similar issues.

Advice Company

This site has a section rifled "Education Law" at law/ that addresses a number of issues and questions school counselors may have regarding educational law. Topics at this site include teacher and student rights, sexual harassment, and children with disabilities.

Education Week

Education Week periodically reports on legal cases involving school counselors. Using the site's search option, school counselors can search the archives dating back to 1981 at to identify archived articles pertaining to legal and ethical issues in education.

Wright & Wright

This site was created and is maintained by attorney Peter W. D. Wright and psychotherapist Pamela Darr Wright (2002). It contains information primarily related to advocacy for students with disabilities. There is a library of free articles, an advocacy library, a law library, and a free e-mail newsletter as well as materials that may be purchased. The e-mall newsletter often contains information about recent court cases.

Special Education Law and Advocacy Strategies

This site is provided by Reed Martin (2002), an education attorney. There is a free e-mail newsletter, numerous articles on special education topics, such as Section 504 and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Through this Web site, school counselors can also purchase manuals on special education and law topics.

Educational Institutions

UCLA School Mental Health Project: Center For Mental Health In Schools

This site has a rich variety of resources related to legal and ethical issues that would be beneficial to school counselors. At, school counselors can download an Introductory Packet on Confidentiality and Informed Consent (Taylor & Adelman, 1989) in either pdf or html format. This packet contains general information, state laws and regulations, and local school board policies. ACA and ASCA ethical guidelines would supercede or modify information and suggestions found at this site.

Ethical and Legal Issues in Counseling

Dr. Wayne Lanning (n.d.) from Oklahoma State university hosts a Web site with 13 ethical and legal categories including links to various ethical codes, ethical decision making, a bibliography for ethics in counseling, and a listing of other ethical and legal sites. While the site is general in nature, school counselors will find valuable information that is easy to access from the home page.

The site of Dr. Wayne Lanning is only one of a number of counselor educator Web sites. Many counselor educators have ethical and legal course sites on the World Wide Web. Two other examples of these types of sites are (Naugle & Eastern Kentucky University Libraries, 2001) and (Cohen, 2001).


Legal and ethical resources are becoming increasingly available on the World Wide Web. The Web provides professional school counselors with a wealth of knowledge that some may otherwise not be able to access through traditional methods. The proliferation of resources should be evaluated for accuracy, age of the information, completeness, and advocacy or bias. Web-based resources should be seen as another tool for school counselors and not as a replacement for scholarly journal articles, workshops, national and state conference sessions, or professional consultation.

With the Internet becoming increasingly available to school counselors around the world, the need for school counselors to both understand and utilize the Internet as a major source of knowledge is essential. The Internet should be used as an instant source of reference by all school counselors who can have access. In doing so, school counselors will be able to not only better serve their students, but also increase their knowledge of virtually every issue with which they are confronted.


American School Counselor Association. (2002). Ethics. Retrieved June 5, 2002, from

Baker, D. R. (1998).Tips for caseworkers on testifying in court (Electronic Version]. Child Law Practice: Helping Lawyers Helping Kids, 18(3), 44-46.

Behnke, S. H., & Kinscherff, R. (2002). Must a psychologist report past child abuse? [Electronic Version].APA Monitor on Psychology, 33(5).

Citizenship Education Committee of the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association. (1995).A day with a lawyer. Retrieved June 1,2002, from

Cohen, N. (2001). PSYC 580:Legal and ethical issues in therapy. Retrieved June 20, 2002, from

Easley, M. F. (1998). Child sexual abuse guidelines: Recommendations for professionals. Retrieved June 14, 2002, from

Hamilton, M. D. (2002). Counseling ethics--a list of internet resources. Retrieved May 15, 2002, from North Carolina School Counseling Association Web site:

Jackson, M. L., & Davidson, C.T. (1996).The Web we weave: Using the Internet for counseling research--Part I. (Electronic version]. Counseling Today, 39(2).

Kuranz, M. (2002). Cultivating student potential. Professional School Counseling, 5, 172-180.

Lanning, W. (n.d.) Ethical and legal issues in counseling. Retrieved June 10, 2002, from

Martin, R. (2002). Special education law and advocacy strategies. Retrieved June 5, 2002, from

Medaris, M. L., Campbell, E., & James, B. (1997). Sharing information: A guide to the family educational rights and privacy act and participation in juvenile justice programs. Retrieved June 14, 2002, from

Milsom, A. (2002). Suicide prevention in schools: Court cases and implications for principals [Electronic Version] NASSP Bulletin 86(630). Retrieved June 10, 2002 from

Naugle, K., & Eastern Kentucky University Libraries. (2001). Welcome to my library. Retrieved May 29, 2002, from

Sampson, J., Jr. (2000). Using the Internet to enhance testing in counseling. Journal of Counseling and Development, 78, 348-356.

Taylor, L., & Adelman, H. (1989). Reframing the confidentiality dilemma to work in children's best interests. [Electronic Version] Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 20, 79-83.

Wright, P.W.D., & Wright, P. D. (2002). Welcome to Wrightslaw. Retrieved May 29, 2002, from

Lynne Gulllot-Miller, Ph.D., formerly a school counselor at Mount Carmel Academy, New Orleans, LA , is an assistant professor, Counseling and Human Development Services, Kent State University, OH. E-mail:

Patricla W. Partin, Ed.D., is a professor, Department of Psychology, at Gardener Webb University, Boiling Springs, NC.
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Author:Partin, Patricia W.
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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