Recent, highly publicized school shootings have had a tremendous impact on the public's perception of school safety (Vossekuil, Reddy, Fein, Borum, & Modzeleski, 2000). These events have prompted school officials to consider prevention strategies for targeted violence in schools. School officials are increasingly turning to school counselors for help in identifying and providing interventions for students who may pose a danger to others (Riley & McDaniel, 2000). School counselors are meeting this challenge by providing violence prevention activities, assessing students' risk of engaging in violent behavior, and providing appropriate interventions when the potential for violence exists. This article offers school counselors an overview of their ethical obligations related to school violence and an explanation of their legal duty to protect students from harm. In order to adhere to ethical and legal dictates concerning school violence, it is necessary to be familiar with the characteristics of students who may be at risk for violent behavior and strategies for preventing school violence; thus, these topics are also discussed. This article concludes with specific recommendations for school counselors to follow as they attempt to keep violence from occurring in schools.
Ethical Duty to Protect Students from Violence in School
There are two ethics documents that inform the practice of school counselors: the Ethical Standards for School Counselors (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 1998) and the Code of Ethics (American Counseling Association [ACA], 1995). Ethical standards require school counselors to inform appropriate authorities when a student's behavior is indicative of clear and imminent danger to others (ACA, § B.1.c.; ASCA, § A.7.). Yet, the best means of accurately determining whether a student is potentially violent has been the subject of much scholarly debate (Bailey, 2001; Reddy et al., 2001; Vossekuil et al., 2000). Accordingly, the ethical standards recommend that school counselors consult with colleagues when working with students who may be at risk for violence (ACA, § B.1.c.; ASCA, § A.7.).
Though school counselors are ethically obligated to respond to and work to prevent imminent school violence, they are also required to consider the welfare of potentially violent students. When school counselors decide to take action to prevent potential violence, the ethical standards direct school counselors to inform students of the actions to be taken in order to clarify expectations and minimize confusion (ASCA, 1998, § A.7.). Furthermore, school counselors have an ethical duty to keep informed about laws related to the rights of their students and ensure that their students' rights are protected (ASCA, § A.1.d.).
Legal Duty to Protect Students from Violence in School
School officials, including school counselors, have a legal obligation to take action when students pose a danger to other students (Bailey, 2001). In 1999, the United States Supreme Court commented on school authorities' duty to address school violence (Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Educ., 1999). The Court explained that school personnel are on notice that they can be held responsible for failing to protect students from student-on-student violence.
Though the legal duty of school personnel to protect...
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