Record Keeping and the School Counselor

By Merlone, Lynn | Professional School Counseling, April 2005 | Go to article overview

Record Keeping and the School Counselor

Merlone, Lynn, Professional School Counseling

A survey of elementary and middle school counselors revealed confusion and diverse practices regarding the storage, sharing, and destruction of counselors' notes. A literature review found guidelines developed at a conference convened by the Russell Sage Foundation in 1969. This article categorizes student data according to how personal and stable the information is, and it offers clear-cut protocols for the storage, access, and destruction of these data. School counselors would be well served by adopting such guidelines.

School counselors benefit from the ongoing work of the American School Counselor Association's (ASCA) Ethics Committee. Confidentiality, legal issues, and ethical decision making are frequently covered in journals, books, conferences, and workshops. On occasion, school counselors are called to testify in court, particularly in cases of child custody. Because most school counselors are not licensed as mental health professionals, but are certified as school personnel, the school counselor cannot guarantee confidentiality. Licensed mental health professionals take great care to thoroughly summarize client meetings, both to aid memory between sessions and for the therapist's protection in documenting proposed or actual intervention. Courses and workshops that address the issue of record keeping and confidentiality for school counselors generally warn that keeping detailed notes can lead to the betrayal of any confidentiality the student may have presumed at the time the counseling session began. Another caution is that any records kept in school are the property of the school and are, therefore, subject to subpoena.

This inherent contradiction--the need for confidentiality to properly assist students without the legal protection of confidentiality--has led to some creative solutions for the documentation of one's work with a student. In some cases, these solutions have become common practice, such as maintaining a notebook that is kept on one's person. In order to find clarity on proper documentation that would protect confidentiality, I sought three sources of information: a review of policies and legislation, a literature review, and a survey of school counselors in New Hampshire.

Following are the specific questions that were to be answered through this research: (a) How does one record counseling sessions in accordance with the law and best practices? (b) What are the regulations and guidelines regarding disclosure for counselors when children who have received services make a transition to other schools? (c) What are the practices regarding obtaining parental permission at the elementary and middle school levels? (d) How long should a counselor maintain data after a child has left the school?


In 1974, the United States Congress enacted the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The purpose of this act is to define the rights of parents and students who are 18 years or older regarding the inspection, disclosure of contents, and making revisions of educational records. A student record is defined as a record that is maintained by an educational institution and contains information that is directly related to a student (National Association of Secondary School Principals, 2001). According to Fischer and Sorenson (1996), the definition of student record does not include counselors' personal files if they are entirely private and not made available to others. AS these files are considered to be private, they may not be passed to someone who will permanently take over the duties of the counselor who made the notations.

In 1997, the U.S. Department of Education released a manual called Protecting the Privacy of Student Records. It summarizes key laws and regulations regarding record keeping, including FERPA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). According to this document, handwritten notes about a student written by a counselor, teacher, or administrator are not considered to be an education record under FERPA and are therefore "not subject to access or disclosure rules" (Cheung, Clements, & Pechman, 1997, p. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Record Keeping and the School Counselor


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.