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School counselors hold a certificate and serve all students in their charge; it is unethical and professionally questionable when others define school counselors’ role as acting outside their scope of practice and serving a small percentage of their population to the exclusion of hundreds of other students in their caseload. The strong argument in favor of this type of software is that it can save lives, which makes it difficult to argue against installing the software.
My district recently purchased a software package that sends alerts to the school and district when students engage in potentially harmful behavior online. However, if schools use this type of software, the software developers must figure out how to skip over the school and go right to the parents, guardians or family members if a student’s online activity yields red flags.
The consequence of the risk, death of a child, is too great. School counselors should never rely on a student’s denial of suicide intent.
It was not detected because the school district had the software programmed to block certain sites but opted out of the self-harm alerts. The argument is weak that liability would follow as a school district’s actions or lack of action would have to be the actual cause of the death, but do school districts really want to test the argument?
Or, the school district did accept alerts, but the alert came in when the school counselor wasn’t working. A student at my school sent me an e-mail indicating another student is expressing suicidal thoughts. Suicide reporting does not hinge on certainty of harm or your discretion. The only knowledge you need to meaningfully act is an expressed, implied, veiled, peer-reported or rumored suicidal ideation.
If something prompted you to question a student about suicide, then you should talk to the parents as well.
In-school suicide assessments are dangerous if relied on for conclusive answers.
Find out how or if the student has confirmed her pregnancy.