Principles for Professional Ethics (1974)


National Association of School Psychologists


CSEP Library

Date Approved: 


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Standards for professional conduct, usually referred to as ethics. recognize (lie obligation of professional persons to provide services and to conduct themselves so as to place the highest esteem on human rights and individual dignity. A code of ethics is an additional professional technique which seeks to ensure Mat each person served will receive the highest quality of service. Even though ethical behavior involves interactions between the professional, the person served, and the employing institution, responsibility for ethical conduct must rest with the professional.

School psychologists are a specialized segment within a larger group of professional psychologists. 'The School psychologist works in situations where circumstances may develop which are not clearly dealt with fit other ethical guidelines. This possibility is heightened by intense concern for such issues as "due process". protection of individual rights, record keeping, accountability, and equal access to opportunity.

The most basic ethical principle is that of the responsibility of a professional person to perform only those services for which that person has acquired a recognized level of competency. In practice, recognition must be made of (lie uncertainties associated with delivery of psychological services in a situation where rights of the student, the parent', [lie school. and society may conflict.

The intent of these guidelines is to supply clarification which will facilitate the delivery of quality psychological services it) the schools. Thus they acknowledge the fluid and expanding functions of the school. [it addition to these ethical standards, there is tile ever present necessity to differentiate between legal mandate and ethical responsibility. The school psychologist is urged to become familiar with applicable legal requirements.

The ethical standards in this guide are organized into several sections representing the multifaceted concerns with which school psychologists must deal. The grouping arrangement is a matter of convenience, and principles discussed in one section apply also to other areas and situations. I he school psychologist should consult with other experienced psychologists and seek advice front (lie professional organization when a situation is encountered for which there is no clearly indicated course of action.

I. Professional Competency

In addition to mastery of professional psychological skills, tile school psychologist prepares for this special area of functioning by becoming knowledgeable of the organization, objectives, and methods of the school. This is a basic requirement for rendering competent psychological service in (lie school.

a. The school psychologist strives to maintain the highest standards of service by an objective collecting of appropriate data and information necessary to effectively work with the student. In conducting a psychological evaluation, due consideration is given to individual integrity and individual differences by the selection and use of appropriate procedures and assessment techniques.

b. The school psychologist is guided by an awareness of the intimate nature of the process which may entail an examination (if the personal aspects of [he life of an individual. 'I lie school psychologist uses art approach which reflects a humanistic concern for dignity and personal integrity

c. The school psychologist is prudently aware of (lie possible influence personal biases and professional limitations impose off life ability to serve a student, and of the continuing obligation for protecting the privacy and confidence of [lie student.

II. Professional Responsibility

The school psychologist is committed, to the application of professional expertise for promoting improvement in the quality of life available it) each person. This objective is pursued in ways that protect the dignity and rights of persons served. Professional skills, position, and influence are applied only for purposes which are consistent with these values.

a. The school psychologist defines life direction and the nature of personal loyalties, objectives, and competencies, and advises and informs all persons concerned of these commitments. Students are faithfully and objectively represented to teachers, parents, and other professionals as well as to the student.

b. The school psychologist insists upon collecting data (or an evaluation in a manner that lends itself to maximum verification, includes relevant information, and is based on assessment techniques which are appropriate for (lie client.

c. When reporting data which are to be representative of the student, life school psychologist makes certain that life information is in such form and style as 14 assure that the recipient of the report will be able to give maximum assistance to file client. The emphasis is on the interpretation and organization rather than the simple passing along of test scores, and will include a professional appraisal of life degree of reliance which can be placed on the information. 

d. Where a situation occurs in which there are divided or conflicting interests (as parent -school- student ), the school psychologist is responsible for working out a pattern of action which assures mutual benefit and protection of rights for all concerned.

III. Professional Relationships with Students

Informing the student of all aspects of the potential professional relationship prior to continuing psychological services to life student is challenging but necessary. Special professional skill is demanded to overcome possible difficulties associated with file student's normal dependent relationship with adults, lack of' language facility, and limited experiences.

a. The school psychologist recognizes life obligation to life student, and respects the student's right of choice to enter, or to participate from services voluntarily,

b. The school psychologist explains to the student who the psychologist is, what life psychologist does, and why the student is being seen. "the explanation includes file uses to be made of information obtained, procedures for collecting the information, persons who will receive specific information, and any obligation (lie psychologist has for reporting specified information. This explanation should be in language understood by the student.

c. The school psychologist informs [lie student of life rationale of sharing information. The course of action proposed lakes into account The rights of the student, life rights or the parent, the responsibilities of the school personnel, and the expanding self-independence and mature status of life student.

d. The school psychologist discusses with the student all contemplated changes ill status and plans which are suggested as a result of psychological study. Tile discussion includes positive and negative consequences and an account of alternatives available to the student.

e. The student is referred when a condition is identified which is outside the treatment competencies or scope of the school psychologist. Such referrals are made on tile basis of assistance being available at the referral source.

IV. Professional Relationships with the School

The school psychologist recognizes that a working understanding or the goals. processes, and legal requirements or the educational system is essential for an effective relationship with the school. Familiarization with (he organization, instructional materials, and teaching strategies of the school are basic for the psychologist to contribute to like common objective for fostering maximum self-development opportunities for each student


a. The school psychologist interprets professional services provided in order to ensure a realistic picture or what psychological services entail.

b. The school psychologist's concern for protecting the interests and rights of students is communicated to (he school administration and staff.

c. The school psychologist communicates findings and recommendations in language readily understood by the school staff. These communications describe possible favorable and unfavorable consequences associated with the alternative proposals.

d. The school psychologist is obligated to ascertain that psycho-educational information reaches responsible and authorized persons and is adequately interpreted for their use in helping the pupil. This involves establishing procedures which safeguard the personal and confidential interests of those concerned.

V. Professional Relationships with Parents

Parental involvement is a significant influence on efforts to improve a student's capacity for coping with demands. Failure to obtain parental support may compound pressures acting on the student and increase adjustment and learning difficulties. Conferences with parents are characterized with candor and in language understood by the parent. The discussion includes recommendations suggested by psycho-educational findings. The school psychologist strives to find a set of alternatives which match the skills, values, and possibilities inherent in each parent as an individual personality capable of helping the student.

a. The school psychologist recognizes the importance of parental support and seeks to obtain this by assuring that there is parent contact prior to seeing the student. The school psychologist secures continuing parental involvement by a frank and prompt reporting to the parent of findings obtained in the evaluation of the student.

b. The school psychologist continues to work with the parent when the parent objects to their child receiving psychological services. Alternatives are described which will enable the child to get needed help.

c. The school psychologist insures that recommendations and plan.- for assisting the child are discussed with the parent. The discussion includes probabilities and alternatives associated with each set of plans. The parents are advised as to sources of help available at school and those available in the community.

d. The school psychologist informs the parent of the nature (if records made of parent conference% and evaluations of the child. The advisement includes what information goes into reports. who will receive the reports, and what safeguards are used for protecting the information.

VI. Principles Governing Relationships wills Other Professions

The school psychologist avoids narrow or vested professional interests so as In work in full cooperation with other professional disciplines in a relationship based on mutual respect and recognition of joint proficiency in some common technical skills.

a. The school psychologist explains and interprets professional competencies of file school psychologist to other professionals so that assignment of services can lie made clearly and unambiguously.

Is. The school psychologist maintains (he skill% and ethics of fire profession %%bile cooperating with other professionals.

c. The school psychologist is obligated to have prior knowledge of tire competency and qualifications of the referral resource.

d. The school psychologist recognizes that various techniques an([ methods are shared with other professional groups.

VII. Principles Pertaining to Relationships with the Community

Although enjoying professional identify as a psychologist, the school psychologist is also a citizen, thereby, accepting fire same responsibilities and duties expected (if all members' of society. Pursuing dual roles of citizen-psychologist or psychologist citizen can pose conflicts. 11

a. The school psychologist acts as a resource person to establish and maintain the availability of adequate psychological services, and also, recognizes the Fight of individuals to avail themselves of such services at their own discretion and flee of coercion.

Is. As a citizen, the school psychologist may use customary procedure.,; and practices for bringing about social change. Such activities are conducted as air involved citizen and no( as a representative of school psychologists.

c. When a school Psychologist suspects existence of detrimental or unethical psychological practices. the professional organization should be consulted.

VIII. Additional Resources.

Ethical issues are not always clearcut. Other sources include:

a. Standards for Educational and Psychological Tests and Manuals, Washington, D.C. APA, AERA, & NCME, 1973.

b. "The Responsible Use of Tests: A Position Paper of AMEG, APGA, and NCME, Measurement and Evaluation In Guidance, Vol. 5, No. 2, holy 1972, pp, 385-388

c. Ethical Principles in the Conduct of Research with Human Participants, Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Assoc., Inc., 1971.

d. The School Psychology Digest: Vol. 3, No. 1, Washington, D.C. The National

Assoc. of School Psychologists, 1974.