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Ethics, Boundaries, & Best Practices

Ethical Guidelines

NASW Code of Ethics

The NASW Code of Ethics is a set of standards that guide the professional conduct of social workers.

SSWAA Listing of Resources on the Ethical Guidelines for School Social Work

Supplemental Ethical Standards for School Social Workers

These supplemental ethical standards build on the values, principles, and ethical standards articulated in the NASW Code of Ethics.

They 1) specifically address issues critical to school social work practice but not addressed in the NASW Code of Ethics, and 2) are in addition to and do not in any way supplant the NASW Code of Ethics.

School Social Work and the Privacy of Minors (Updated 9/22)

The NASW Code of Ethics does not distinguish between adults and minors as clients. This is especially problematic for school social workers because the vast majority of students are minors. The purpose of this paper is to provide general principles for and recommendations to guide practice by school social workers.

School Social Work in Host Settings

Ethical Issues covered in this paper include:

  • Are all students who benefit from, or are the direct recipients of, school social work services “clients”?
  • Who is the “client”?
  • How are school social workers to navigate conflicts of interest?
  • How are ethical conflicts resolved between disciplines resolved?

School Social Work and Group Work

Ethical Issues covered in this paper include:

  • How should non therapeutic groups (e.g., classroom groups) be differentiated from therapeutic groups?
  • Are disclosures made during group sessions considered privileged communications?
  • What pregroup preparation should group leaders provide to prospective members and their parents?
  • Should students be required to participate in treatment groups or be given a choice?
  • What norms should be established to clarify expectations about prosocial behavior between members?
  • How and how often should group work services be evaluated

Minor Students’ Rights to Confidentiality, Self-Determination, and Informed Consent in Wisconsin

This paper is intended to help Wisconsin school social workers balance minor students’ rights to privacy and confidentiality, and their parents’ rights, roles and responsibilities, in an effort to improve outcomes for both students and families.

NASW Practice Standards & Guidelines

NASW Practice Standards & Guidelines provide benchmarks that describe the services that social workers should provide; that employers should support and that consumers should expect. Standards/guidelines reflect current and emerging best practice trends and are a critical component of the professional social worker's toolkit.They are useful for both new and experienced practitioners, and can be effective advocacy tools.

NASW, ASWB, CSWE , & CSWA Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice

NASW partnered with ASWB, CSWE, and CSWA to develop a uniform set of technology standards for professional social workers to use as a guide in their practice.

SSWAA Resolution Statements

Over the years, SSWAA has developed numerous Resolution Statements to address issues of importance to School Social Workers at the local, state and national levels.


Role-clarity and boundaries for trauma-informed teachers

As they begin to implement trauma-informed practices in their classrooms, teachers should consider their role in the lives of students and how to maintain appropriate and safe boundaries with students. This essay explores the role of the teacher in supporting trauma-affected children and offers a frame of teacher as a facilitator of connection. It also offers ways to compassionately maintain boundaries with students while supporting their access to mental health care.

Boundary Training: Promoting healthy adult-student relationships

Drawn from the field of psychology, boundaries may be described as the personal limits people set to determine the appropriateness of their own and others’ behavior in any given situation. Although an encroachment may not violate any laws, it may be a risk factor for an unhealthy relationship. Boundary training is increasingly popular for adult school employees and volunteers at public and independent K-12 schools.

Professional Boundaries: Guidelines for Tasmanian teachers

These guidelines are designed to raise awareness of issues and situations that may arise, prompt reflective behavior, and provide some guidance. Teachers are encouraged to seek advice from a trusted supervisor or their principal if they are in any doubt about the appropriateness of their proposed conduct or another teacher’s conduct.

Considerations in Trauma Sensitive Schools - Boundaries, Confidentiality, and Disclosure - DPI Trauma Sensitive Schools Online Learning System Module

This brief, self-paced module leads staff through considerations related to boundaries and confidentiality and includes the following tools:

Determining Boundaries in Staff-Student Relationships Document

Purpose: The purpose of this tool is to assist educators in a school to come to a consensus regarding the appropriate boundaries to maintain in their relationships with students. Staff participation in the activity is a starting point for the discussion and development of a school-wide consensus on healthy boundaries. There are different set of questions for elementary, middle and high school staff acknowledging the unique needs of each age group.

Responding to Student Disclosure of Emotional Pain, Trauma or Mental Illness: Recommendations for Administrators

Tool to lead staff through training on handling student disclosures, including sentence stems and example responses.

A Nurses Guide to Professional Boundaries - Nursing and Midwifery Board Ahpra

While written for the nursing profession, the content is easily transferable to the social work profession. These guidelines are designed provide more detailed guidance and discussion in relation to the sometimes challenging area of managing professional boundaries

For questions about this information, contact Julie Incitti (608) 266-0963