Ethics and Technology: Response to Pfohl-Part I

By Jacob, Susan; Armistead, Leigh | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, March/April 2011 | Go to article overview

Ethics and Technology: Response to Pfohl-Part I


Jacob, Susan, Armistead, Leigh, National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


Asmembers of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) code of ethics revision team, we are pleased to see Dr. PfohTs (2oioa, 2oiob) two-part commentary on "Ethics and Technology" in COMMUNIQUÉ. It will very likely generate interest in the new code. We concur with his observations that NASP's ethics code does not provide detailed standards with respect to prohibited and permitted behaviors in the area of electronic communication and record keeping or the use of computer-assisted assessment, intervention, or research. Perhaps we can provide some background to help readers understand why that is the case.

The multistage process to revise NASP's standards began in 2007. The goal of the team responsible for revising NASP's code of ethics was to create a code designed to protect the public trust in school psychologists by identifying both broad ethical principles and specific standards to guide school psychology practitioners in ethical decision making, with special attention to the unique circumstances associated with school-based practice. The preparation of early drafts of the new code began by soliciting suggestions from focus groups composed of NASP leaders and members and by e-mails to NASP membership. In addition to considering these suggestions, the revision team also conducted research to gain up-to-date knowledge about ethical issues in psychology. They reviewed relevant scholarly literature and the codes of ethics of other associations, studies of ethical problems experienced by school psychologists and the types of queries to NASP's Ethics Committee, changes in law that impact the practice of school psychology, and articles on the emerging roles of school psychologists. Beginning fall 2009, drafts of a proposed new code were critiqued by targeted NASP and external school psychology stakeholder groups. After revisions based on this input, NASP members were invited to provide feedback via a Web-based call for comments. These critiques were extremely importantto the revision process. The final draft of the revised Principles for Professional Ethics was adopted in March 2010.

The ethics code revision group debated the extent to which we would attempt to provide specific guidance regarding the use of technology. However, we determined that the purpose of a code of ethics is to identify aspirational principles and enforceable standards to assist school psychologists in making sound ethical choices. Codes of ethics are imperfect as guidelines for decision making because they must be applicable to the many different roles, activities, and employment settings of school psychologists. In addition, they must be broad enough to provide useful guidance following technological advances. We also agree with Pfohl that school psychologists could benefit from specific guidelines for the use of technology in their professional practices. However, the development of such guidelines is outside the scope of the role and responsibilities of NASP's Ethics Committee.

Consequently, we invite NASP's Computer & Technological Applications Interest Group to draft a position statement or guidelines for the use of technology in school psychology. We encourage them to craft such guidelines carefully because of the unique considerations of school-based as compared to nonschool practice. For example, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), not the Health Insurance Portability andAccountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), generally applies to the student education records of school psychologists in elementary and secondary (K-12) schools that receive federal funds. In contrast, HIPAA generally applies to protected health information in nonschool settings (see U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & U.S. Department of Education, 2008). Special education laws provide somewhat greater protection for the education records of students with disabilities than FERPA and should be considered in developing guidelines for the electronic sharing, storage, and disposal of personally identifiable student information in K-12 schools (Daggett, 2008). …

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Ethics and Technology: Response to Pfohl-Part I
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