Sunday, October 23, 2016

Preparing for Red Ribbon Week's Aftermath: What to do with Self Disclosures and Reports?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

As school counselors, we have several reasons for celebrating Red Ribbon Week.  Our plans include educating students and staff about the dangers of drugs; bringing awareness to the school community about how drugs can negatively impact students; and improving communication between staff and students. So, let's say you have a successful Red Ribbon Week...congratulations!  Now, will you be able to handle the aftermath? 

So, we all do a great job making preparations for Red Ribbon Week. However, what follow up  activities and discussions do we have after the initial event? 

Red Ribbon Week Follow Up Activities

First, you need to be prepared for any disclosures and referrals about drug use.  If you are a new school counselor or this is your first Red Ribbon Week campaign, you need to know how to handle those referrals.

Dr. Carolyn Stone, who specializes in ethics for school counselors, gives excellent guidance on how school counselors should handle drug related reports and disclosures.

1.  Make sure you provide informed consent to your students about what activities you must report.
2.  Explain to students the extent of confidentiality when involving substance use.
3.  Know your state and district policies about disclosing information about substance use to family members.
4.  When students are in imminent danger, remember you have a duty to report, refer, and include the family. 

See the following article from Rhonda Williams.
Ethics of Substance Abuse Issues

Second, if you feel inexperienced about teen drug use than make efforts to educate yourself. Many school counselors are not up to date on the latest drug trends and their dangers; therefore, it is important to keep up with the latest information. Here are some webinars you can view for more information:

Webinar: Cannabis and Bipolar Disorder 

Operation Virtual Field Trip: Explore the Science of Addiction 

Third, know that you have the ability to prevent substance abuse in your school.  See this guest post from Bradley University called the School Counselors Role in Preventing Substance Abuse.

Fourth, do your research about why kids are taking drugs.  It is important that we understand the lure of drugs and their warning signs. 

4 Traits that Put Kids at Risk for Addiction

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Drug Use

Signs of Drug Use

Why Do Teens Use Drugs? 
Fifth, learn how to recognize the common types of drugs that teens are using.  Here are some resources that may be helpful to you as you are learning more about drug use.

Recognizing Drugs by Photos

List of Common Drugs

View of Common Drug Paraphernalia

New Drug Trends

Trending Drug Topics

 Marijuana Talk Kit

How Drugs Impact a Teen's Brain

Mind Over Matter

A Little Dab Wont do: What School Counselors Need to Know About Marijuana Concentrates

Sixth, make plans to go into the classroom and talk to students during the year.  See some ideas regarding student activities and lessons.

Student Activities and Printables About Drugs

Drug Lesson Plans

Red Ribbon Week Curriculum Ideas

Just Think Twice

Seventh, make plans for meaningful drug education. Planning for a meaningful drug awareness campaigns for students can make a difference in your school community and gives you credibility with your school community.

Prepare for Drug Fact Awareness Week, 2017

January 23-29, 2017

Planning Your Event 

Drug Facts

Drug Fact Awareness, 2015

New Teen Drug Trends in 2016

Get Ready for Red Ribbon Week 2017

Confident School Counselor's Red Ribbon Week Ideas

Red Ribbon Week 2013 
Red Ribbon Week 2014

Red Ribbon Week 2015

DEA Red Ribbon Week Toolkit

I hope this blog is useful in helping you make your Drug Fact Awareness and Red Ribbon Week Campaign plans!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The School Counselor's Impact on Conflict

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bad behavior is popular on television
Is it just me or is violence increasing in our society? Everyday we hear about public shootings, political mud slinging, violent demonstrations, vicious name-calling, and a host of other violent behaviors in the news and social media. I mean look no further than Oxygen's Bad Girls Club where a group of girls move into a mansion to live together. While living in luxury, their altercations and physical confrontations are chronicled on television for people to watch.  So, it seems natural with all the bad behaviors that are modeled on television, movies, and media that our students
gravitate toward fighting as the first solution for solving their own  conflicts.  I mean come on...what student (and some staff members) doesn't enjoy talking about all the hair left in the hallway after a girl fight or gawking at the guy  sitting in handcuffs in the front office.  In fact, in an article by Carrie Craven from Teaching Tolerance, she reveals the main reasons for fights in schools.
  • Fighting in schools provides a safe haven where students believe someone will intervene before someone becomes seriously hurt.
  • Fighting provides social status among a students' peers.
  • Fighting gets the attention of adults that a problem is occurring and the student lacks the ability to solve it.
As a school counselor, it is easy to feel hopeless and unsure of what role we play in reducing school violence and fighting.  Fortunately, there is a movement to involve school counselors in violence prevention strategies by teaching empathy and conflict resolution skills. According to the article, School Counselors and Violence Prevention, school counselors have three roles in violence prevention.These three roles include:

1.  Violence prevention
2.  Violence intervention
3.  Crisis resource

David Cook says that each year we graduate thousands of students who are never exposed to conflict resolution.  In essence, not teaching students how to resolve conflict is to teach that violence is inevitable.   In this blog post, I would like to talk about how school counselors can contribute to violence prevention in schools which can make a direct impact on the school climate.

One suggestion from the Idaho School Counselor Association is that school counselors facilitate programs that prevent school violence. One such program that I am very passionate about is peer mediation. So, what exactly is peer mediation and does it really work?  According to the Resolution Center of Michigan, peer mediation is a "problem solving process by students with students."  In peer mediation, students meet in a private, confidential setting where peer mediators provide a safe environment for the students to solve their own conflict.  Richard Cohen of School Mediation Associates has found  several benefits to peer mediation.  These benefits include:

1. Peer mediation effectively resolves conflicts. In fact, 90% of all peer conflicts are resolved for good.
2. Peer mediation teaches essential workplace skills that are needed in today's global workplace.
3. Peer mediation builds conflict resolution skills which can be transferred to other areas of students' lives.
4. Peer mediation motivates students to collaborate without pulling in adults to solve their issues.
5. Peer mediation empowers students as they learn to resolve their own conflicts.
6. Peer mediation creates more time for learning as students are able to stay in class more often.
7. Peer mediation improves school climate for students and staff.

Are you intrigued to learn more about conflict resolution prevention strategies like peer mediation? I would encourage you to join the Conflict Resolution Day webinar on October 20th.  This webinar will introduce conflict strategies for educators and cover the benefits of peer mediation.  Here is the link below:

In addition, you can check out these other blog posts for more information on Conflict Resolution Day strategies for educators.

Thinking about starting a peer mediation program or improving an existing program at your school? Listen to Texas Conflict Coach Blog Radio Blog about the Online Peer Mediation Platform. Also, see this article about the Online Peer Mediation Platform.

What is the Online Peer Mediation Platform?

1.  Assist students in practicing their mediation skills with qualified mentors.
2. Train students to become mediators.
3.  Provide mediation services for schools that lack a mediation program.
4. Maintain a resource clearinghouse of resources and training materials.

Need ideas to promote conflict resolution for students?  Check out my blog post from 2015.

Conflict Resolution Day Opportunities

Download the Conflict Resolution Day Poster

Friday, October 7, 2016

Duty to Warn: When Does it Apply to Informing Parents about Teen Pregnancy?

Friday, October 7, 2016

This is the second blog post regarding the school counselor and teen pregnancy.  This post discusses the legal ramifications about informing parents of a teen's pregnancy.

As school counselors, we often walk a precarious path when it comes to disclosing confidential information about our students.  This road has many twists and turns that we must navigate including knowledge about state laws, federal laws, district policies, school policies, and our own ethical codes.  According to the ASCA, the ethical code guides school counselors to keep students' disclosures confidential while respecting the rights of parents and guardians at the same time.  Moyer and Sullivan (2008) state that school counselors often have a dilemma or "fundamental conflict" to maintain a balance between the ethical rights of students with the legal rights of parents.  Now that we know that a manual on disclosures does not exist,  when should a counselor disclose information about a student to parents/guardians?  School counselors should disclose when there is a "clear and imminent danger." ASCA states that school counselors should keep student information confidential unless the disclosure is to prevent a clear or imminent danger to the student, danger to others, or it is a legal requirement. Because the ASCA ethical code does not provide a directory of school counselor scenarios that we must report, it is up to the school counselor to decide when to divulge information.  However, Moyer and Sullivan provide some suggestions to school counselors on how to deal ethical dilemmas.
So now that we know there is little to no guidance on when to divulge confidential information, what actions should we take when a student tells a school counselor that she is pregnant?

When to report...that is the question.
According to social worker, Sandra Kopels, therapists have the duty to report situations that pose a physical or imminent danger to the student or others. This responsibility is known as a duty to warn
and can be taken out of context when sharing that a teen is pregnant. Kopels believes sharing that information under "duty to warn" would apply if a student pregnancy symptoms are causing the student adverse medical effects. However, Kopels believes that "just because a student happens to be a minor who attends school in a particular district and then becomes pregnant doesn’t establish a duty for the school to notify the parents of her pregnancy."

If you are not sure if you should report, there are some helpful tips you can follow:

What are the laws of your state?
Again, if you are not sure about if the age difference could constitute statutory rape, see the statutory rape laws for your state.

Tips for Helping Students Inform Parents of their Pregnancy

Looking for resources on how a teen can tell her parents she is pregnant.  Here are some resources that may be helpful to give to your students.

 Video #1

I found this video from a student perspective.  This video was created by a 15 year old girl who gives teens tips for telling their parents about their pregnancy.  The video shows moments of maturity and immaturity (for instance, she picks up a piece of chocolate and eats it mid sentence, she rambles at times, and she tells viewers to "be good for a month before you tell your parents"), but she speaks from her own experience as a teen which I think it may be helpful. 

 Video #2

This video is a comical approach on how a teen can tell her parents she is pregnant.  I like it because it gives a summary of the steps on how to discuss a teen's pregnancy with her parents.  Sometimes humor can help ease the tension in a emotional situation.  What I like is its simplicity and I can fill in the gaps.  Again, please use at your own discretion.


Other Helpful Resources 

Here are a few other resources you can use if you are not sure what to do...

How to Tell Your Parents You Are Pregnant

District Policy and Student Pregnancy

Legal and Ethical Issues for School Counselors

Monday, October 3, 2016

It's a Girl or Boy: How School Counselors Can Support Teen Moms Series

Monday, October 3, 2016

Unfortunately, I have not been able to blog as much as I would like lately.  Here is the reason why...

Her name is Ryleigh and she is my beautiful, healthy granddaughter.  So, for the last month, my daughter has been preparing for her birth and those preparation plans included my help.  I am so glad that I could be part of the support system for both my girls. The weekend before Ryleigh's arrival, my daughter (who happens to be a high school history teacher) and I were on a walk (we were trying to get her to go into labor with no luck) and the discussion about the lack of support of teen moms came up.  My daughter said that she could not imagine going through this pregnancy without support and she had compassion for young girls who lacked the immense support she was experiencing.  With that comment, she had me thinking about our teen parents and how little support many of them receive from school staff (at least in my experience).  So, over the next couple of weeks, I have decided to create several posts dedicated to working with teen parents as a school counselor.

Although the purpose of this blog post is not to discuss prevention (which is truly important), I feel it is important to discuss pregnancy so we are aware of the trends among youth and laws regarding supporting students.

 First, let's look at teen pregnancy...

According to 2014 statistics reported by the CDC, 249,078 babies were born to youth between the ages 15-19. Although a historic low,  the US still has one of the highest birthrates for teens among the industrialized nations. Also, it is important to note that there is a disparity in the birthrate among teens in different states in the US.  Among the states, the South and West rule when it comes to teen births.  New Mexico has the highest birthrates while Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma follow closely behind (Teen Pregnancy Rates by State).  Among demographic groups, Latina females have the highest birthrates and youth in foster care are more than twice as likely to become pregnant (Teen Pregnancy Resources).  In addition, teen pregnancy is often a generational repeat or when women in one family systematically become pregnant as teenagers (source: Rebecca Proctor, school social worker).

Historically, schools have had two options for dealing with teen moms. These options include ostracizing teen moms by the school staff or encouraging parents to send their girls away to other programs. However, research has found that there are much better techniques that schools can employ to assist teen mothers.  These techniques include:

  • Supporting family connection and support;
  • Providing secure attachments at school;
  • Encouraging father involvement;
  • Assisting student in graduating from high school.

Source: Rebecca Proctor, School Social Worker

Next, let's look at why should school counselors be concerned about teen pregnancy.  There are four major reasons why school counselors should be assisting teen moms.

The most disturbing fact is that babies born to teen parents tend to be premature, have health problems, suffer abuse, and grow up poor.

Teen pregnancy is the top reason girls drop out of school. A teen female who becomes pregnant before the age of 18 is less likely to graduate from high school and less than 2% graduate from college.

Children of teen mothers are more likely to become pregnant teens.

Teen pregnancy costs taxpayers over $11 billion each year.

So now that we know we should be concerned, what can school counselors do to assist pregnant teens?

It is important for school counselors to educate parents, staff, and administrators about the rights of pregnant teens according to Title IX.  Here is some important information you should know about working with pregnant teens as a school counselor.

1.  Schools cannot require pregnant teens to leave their school and attend a separate program.  If you are receiving pressure from staff or administration to force students to attend separate programs (i.e. alternative programs, online programs, or evening programs) against their will, it is a violation of their civil rights.  That is very different from providing information about these programs and the teen volunteering to go to another program.  It is important as a school counselor that you do not take on an administrative charge to provide lists of pregnant students and/or persuade students to attend alternative program (this is totally against the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX).  Instead, school counselors should seek parent and student permission when providing names to be included on any lists requested by administrators.  Protecting student confidentiality as a school counselor is our ethical responsibility and we certainly don't want to be named in any type of litigation (cough, cough).  For more information on protecting student confidentiality, please see Dr. Carolyn Stone's article on Confidentiality and the Need to Know for additional guidance.

2.  Schools cannot require a student to provide a doctor's note to attend school or participate in any extracurricular activities because the students is pregnant unless the school requires all students to provide a doctor's note for participation. Title IX explicitly states that you cannot treat a pregnant teen differently even if she is in the later stages of pregnancy.

3.  Schools should immediately address and stop pregnancy related harassment by students and staff. This harassment can include name calling, written statements, physical harm, sexual jokes regarding the pregnancy, spreading rumors about the student's sexual activity, or making sexual gestures toward the student.  It is important to note that staff members are particularly guilty of harassment and need to be educated about making comments or putting disparaging remarks in emails.

4.  Schools must make possible adjustments to the regular school program that are reasonable and responsive to the student's temporary pregnancy status. Some reasonable adjustments include: providing a larger desk for the student, allow the student to go the bathroom when needed, or permit the student to use the elevator.

5.  Schools cannot prevent a pregnant student from attending extracurricular events like homecoming, prom, sports, school clubs, or honor programs.  Also, a student cannot be prohibited from holding a leadership position in extracurricular activities or sports.

6.  Schools must excuse pregnancy related absences like childbirth recovery.

7.  Schools must provide special services to pregnant students as they would provide for any student with a temporary medical condition (i.e. tutoring).

8.  If a school receives federal monies, the school must ensure that all teachers provide the same treatment for pregnant students accepting makeup work.

9.  Schools must create and publish a grievance policy for all students who experience discrimination related to pregnancy.  In addition, schools must designate one person to coordinate and carry out the grievance procedures under Title IX.  Students who wish to file a grievance may go to the following website to make a pregnancy related complaint. The complaint must be filed within 180 days of the date of the incident.

10.  Although not required, the Office of Civil Rights suggests that school administration provide materials to staff when responding to pregnant students.

Resource: Title IX Pregnancy Resource

As a school counselor, you are bound to work with pregnant teens.  When I first started working with teens, there was zero guidance (I mean nothing!). So, I wanted to take a moment to provide you with some helpful tips as a school counselor.

The Office of Civil Rights provides guidance to school counselors on effective methods in assisting pregnant students.

1.  Meet with your pregnant students and their parents to let them know the resources that are available to them through the school district.  Often parents, students, and even school counselors are unaware of the services that must be provided by school districts by the Office of Civil Rights.

2.  Create a graduation support plan for pregnant and parenting students. This plan can include academic credit recovery, online options, and summer school options.

3.  Contact pregnant or parenting students who have recently dropped out to provide encouragement for their return to school or a school equivalency program.

4.  Provide follow up consultation with students who have dropped out to provide information regarding local GED programs, night school options, or online options.

5. Establish support groups for pregnant and parenting students.

6.  Advise your librarian on books for pregnant and parenting teens. Some examples include:

7.  Assist in providing resources about prenatal care, child care or early learning programs. Team up with other staff members in your school like your school nurse and school social worker or community agencies like hospitals, your local Department of Family Services, or other local agencies.

If you are unaware of the role of the school nurse in working with pregnant and parent teens, here is a tutorial from the National Association of School Nurses on the role of the school nurse.

School nurses...

  • Recognize signs of pregnancy;
  • Discuss reproductive options with students;
  • Counteract pregnancy denial;
  • Assist students in making healthy choices;
  • Assist in facilitating dialogue between parents and students;
  • Advocate for comprehensive sex education;
  • Link students to reproductive health services;
  • Provide education for students regarding the consequences of pregnancy;
  • Build a support network for students including core services like childcare, healthcare for infants, case management, and economic assistance. 
  • Provide encouragement for adolescent males to bond with their infants. 

As a school counselors, working with pregnant teens can be somewhat of a mystery; therefore, my goal is to provide a series of posts of how to work with teen parents.  Here is a sneak peek of future posts:

Post #2:  What to do when a teen tells you she is pregnant.
Post #3:  How can you support pregnant and parenting teen moms.
Post #4:  How can you support teen dads.

Do you need some resources? Here are a few that you can use with your pregnant teens.

16 and Pregnant Discussion Guide

MTV has provided free videos and discussion guides to use from its popular TV series, 16 and Pregnant.  Before considering this discussion guide for girls at high risk for pregnancy, check with your school administration and district policies.


Teen moms can receive text messages during and after the pregnancy on such topics as prenatal care, baby health, and parenting.

Title V Healthcare Resources

Provide students and parents with this web link to find healthcare resources.

See you in the next post!!