Thursday, May 29, 2014

Confidentiality

Confidentiality has taken on a different face since I started working 30 years ago.  Talks about confidentiality consisted of warning us not to talk about students with anyone except their teacher or the principal.  Now, with social media, that "talk" has expanded.  
Taking pictures of students where their faces can be seen on your personal phone is a "no-no", unless, of course, you have the written permission of the parent.  There are parents who don't want their children's faces plastered on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter...that's just a lawsuit waiting to happen!
Even putting kids names and faces on a common wall is a breach of confidentiality.  When a student asks me about another student, I will tell them that they need to ask that student.  That may be taking it to a level it doesn't really need to go, but you can never be too cautious.  
I know it's hard to sit at lunch with teachers and hear them talking about a student that you see. When that happens, it makes me very uncomfortable.  How do you handle that?  Depending on who's at the table, I may just sit and not say anything.  If the teachers all have the student in class (which does happen with my older kids), then we may have a conference of sort. Then there are times when teachers of different grades are eating lunch, and a student is discussed.  If I'm finished eating, I will usually leave at that point.  Otherwise, I will sit quietly until I can quickly finish and leave.  And, there are times when I eat in my room to avoid the talking.  It doesn't happen very often, thank goodness.
I had a teacher talk about a student that I have at another school; she knew him from somewhere else. (She knew that he had speech, and she knew that I was the SLP at that school.) She didn't talk about his speech/language issues, just about him  and the family in general.  I sat and nodded my head, and didn't offer anything.  I suppose I should have stopped her and told her that I couldn't discuss him, but I wasn't discussing him.  
It can get very uncomfortable when someone talks to you about another student, and it's hard to say to that person, "I'm sorry, I can't discuss him/her with you", but I have done it.  You know that the person you say it to is embarrassed, but it has to be said.  It's better to embarrass someone than to be dragged into court.
The "School-Based Speech and Language Therapy" Group on Facebook is wonderful for running scenarios by other professionals.  I'm glad it's a closed group so that we can air out our tough cases or some difficulty we're having with other team members.  It's a very supportive group!  
How do you handle breaches of confidentiality? 

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