It’s an age-old question in the modern era of school counseling. To what extent, if any, should a school counselor be involved in student discipline? Is my involvement in the process going to jeopardize my ability to be an advocate for that student? To answer that, you need to ask another: What, exactly, does it mean to ‘do discipline?’ For me, there are some roles in the process that are completely off limits. Sending a student home, for example, or putting them in ISS, or having a parent meeting regarding an incident. Being the hammer. Those things are best handled by a building administrator, or other individual whose job it is to perform that function. My own role is to be involved to help problem-solve and address any remaining issues with all parties involved, whether that be parent, student or victim. I believe that such involvement only enhances my job as a school counselor.
In my ten years in this business, I’ve seen counselors who refuse to have ANY involvement in discipline, even to the point of making it a union issue. I’ve also seen some situations where the discipline process became a significant part of an individual counselor’s daily job. Neither approach fits into a healthy school counseling program. Clarifying that balance in the agreement with your administrator would be the first step toward defining your own role.
There is even support for this argument from the American School Counselor Association:
Do school counselors have a role in discipline? Yes, an important one; however, it’s different than the administrator’s role. Rather than complain that “Discipline is not our job,” I recommend school counselors share with their administrators the role they do have in discipline – to support the teachers and administrators by ensuring students possess the knowledge, attitudes and skills to prevent and reduce the number of referrals. This is done by providing a comprehensive program that provides prevention, intervention and postvention [sic].
So yes, I do discipline. It’s an important part of doing my job as a school counselor. More to the point, it’s an important part of the school counseling program, and could be listed under “responsive services” under the counseling delivery system. By maintaining that balance, a good school counselor can keep their role as a student advocate while doing their part to improve student behavior on a school-wide basis.