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Multicultural Competence of School Psychologists

By Patti L. Harrison

During the Town Hall Meeting of the NASP 2010 Annual Convention in Chicago, a panel of school psychologists described key topics that have shaped school psychology and their predictions about future directions and challenges in our field. Deborah Crockett, school psychologist with Fayette County Schools in Georgia and former NASP president, described school psychology’s accomplishments in recognizing the many facets of diversity important for the children, families, and schools that we serve and in making school psychology a more diverse profession. Responding to diverse characteristics of people and contexts in our work settings and promoting multicultural competence in instructional and mental health services permeate all professional practices of school psychologists.

Virtually every NASP activity reflects our emphasis on diversity and multicultural competence. A priority initiative for NASP in 2009–2010 is to increase cultural competence and cultural and linguistic diversity of school psychology. Numerous NASP activities that address this priority include the work of our NASP Multicultural Affairs Committee; Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Workgroup; Student Development Workgroup; and other workgroups and their outstanding professional development activities for school psychologists, as well as their preparation of resources for educators and parents. For example, recent NASP podcasts and other online resources emphasize topics such as cultural and linguistic diversity, homelessness, effective communication with African American families and students, homophobia and bullying, Indigenous American children and families, and disproportionality. NASP has engaged in a comprehensive campaign to recruit diverse individuals as practitioners and university faculty members through our CLD Ambassadors of Recruitment program. Our website includes a list of graduate school psychology programs that focus on multicultural or bilingual competencies and an online directory of NASP members who are fluent in languages other than English. Early in 2010, we developed resources for supporting children here in the United States who are affected by the earthquake in Haiti, including handouts for parents, teachers, administrators, and school mental health professionals. During the NASP 2010 convention, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the NASP Minority Scholarship Program, which has awarded scholarships for 35 specialist-level graduate students. The theme of our NASP Summer Conference in Albuquerque in July 2009 was “Culturally Competent Practice.” Numerous presentations during our NASP 2010 convention focused on diversity of children, families, and schools and multiculturally competent skills of school psychologists, including presentations selected for the special President’s Strand on “Expanding Opportunities: Comprehensive Academic and Mental Health Practices for Diverse Schools.”

Deborah Crockett concluded our 2010 NASP Town Hall Meeting by encouraging school psychology to maintain the momentum in moving diversity forward. In March 2010, the NASP Delegate Assembly adopted our new standards for graduate preparation, credentialing, comprehensive practice, and ethics. These major NASP policy documents define contemporary school psychology; promote school psychologists’ services for children, families, and schools; communicate our qualifications and essential services to stakeholders; and provide a foundation for our future. The standards acknowledge our association’s emphasis on moving diversity forward by including the following key principle of comprehensive school psychology services: School psychologists ensure that their knowledge, skills, and professional practices reflect understanding and respect for human diversity and advocate for effective services and social justice for all children, families, and schools. The new NASP standards emphasize multicultural competence of school psychologists in promoting effective functioning across multiple contexts for individuals, families, and schools with diverse characteristics, cultures, and backgrounds.

In a recent interview, Janine Jones, school psychology faculty member at the University of Washington and editor of NASP’s recent book The Psychology of Multiculturalism in the Schools: A Primer for Practice, Training, and Research, described multicultural competence as a “a continuum that doesn’t have an endpoint” and requiring an “ongoing process of professional and personal development” (see http://www.nasponline.org/resources/podcasts/multiculturalismtranscript.aspx). NASP will continue to advance recognition and understanding of diversity in all initiatives and to expand resources useful for school psychologists in their ongoing development of multicultural competence.

Patti L. Harrison, PhD, NCSP, is a faculty member in the University of Alabama’s school psychology program and an Alabama certified school psychologist.