APA Council of Representatives Approves MLA, Which Retains the Exemption for All School Psychologists
Duncan, Brent, Bohmann, Joan, National Association of School Psychologists. Communique
On February 20, the Council of Representatives (CoR) of the American Psychological Association (APA) approved a final draft of the Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists (MLA). The MLA is the primary policy document from APA that is designed to guide state policy makers regarding licensing standards for psychologists. APA has been very clear in stating their longstanding policy that only those with a doctoral degree be allowed to use the title "psychologist." Since its inception more than 40 years ago, the MLA has had an exemption that allows the title "school psychologist" to be used by doctoral as well as nondoctoral school psychologists who are credentialed or licensed by their state education agency for practice within the school setting. The draft of the MLA that was submitted to the CoR from the MLA task force would have removed this exemption. Instead, states would have been advised by APA to revise credentialing laws for nondoctoral school psychologists and replace their titles with titles such as school psychological specialist or specialist in school psychology, but not school psychologist.
For 3 years, the leadership of NASP has worked with APA Division 16 and many additional national and state stakeholders to express our opposition to the removal of the exemption. During two separate public comment periods, nearly 30,000 individual responses were sent to APA from school psychologists, administrators, state and national policy makers, related service professionals, and parents opposing the removal of this exemption. NASP summarized the key arguments in a persuasive letter that was sent to every member of the APA CoR during the week before the vote. Despite a strong recommendation from the MLA task force, the CoR failed to remove the exemption, and instead developed compromise language which neither endorses nor prohibits the use of the title "school psychologist" for those credentialed by states to practice within schools. (See Bonnie Nastasi's article, this page, for details regarding the negotiations between the leadership of APA and Division 16 and the development of the compromise language.)
Key messages developed by NASP and refined with each new draft of the MLA contained simple and persuasive arguments. We believe that there is no evidence that limiting the school psychologist title to only those holding a doctoral degree would serve the public good. In fact, we believe that removal of the exemption could cause considerable public harm by disrupting valuable services delivered by highly qualified professionals. …