Resolution of Ethical Concerns and Complaints
The Ethical and Professional Practices Committee has the responsibility to accept, investigate and settle complaints about the professional conduct of NASP members and school psychologists who hold the NCSP. In some circumstances, the committee may itself initiate ethical complaints and show-cause actions. The committee's procedures define a series of problem-solving steps ranging from informal resolution of complaints to formal adjudication and corrective action. This page summarizes those procedures and suggests possible steps for clients who are considering filing a filing a complaint or anyone concerned about a school psychologist's actions. You may also view the committee's complete Ethics Procedures.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Filing an Ethics Complaint
- Have I attempted to resolve the problem by discussing it with the school psychologist or a supervisor? The majority of school psychologists behave ethically and are committed to the welfare of their clients. Sometimes, though, problems result from lack of communication and misunderstandings and can be resolved without submitting an ethics complaint.
- Is there a local or state organization to which I could submit a concern? For concerns about a school psychologist's possible ethical misconduct, contacting your state school psychology association might be a “next step.” Many state associations have an ethics chair or committee and attempt to problem solve situations involving their members.
- Is the concern about a special education decision? The EPP Committee is usually not the best place to begin trying to resolve such disagreements. Special education team decision making is complicated and team members, including parents and school psychologists, may have differing points of view. Local education agencies are responsible for the decisions building level teams make and every state provides parents with a procedure to appeal decisions they disagree with. Information about your “due process” rights may be found in parent handbooks and district and state web sites. If you need assistance, local and state agencies are available to help. For example:
- Is the concern appropriate for the NASP EPP Committee to consider? NASP's code of ethics defines the appropriate professional conduct of school psychologists. However, it can be difficult to apply them to some situations. For example, problematic relationships between school psychologists and their colleagues should be addressed but may not constitute ethical misconduct. Similarly, school psychologists should strive to follow “best practices,” but behaving ethically is different from following a “best practices” standard.
Steps for Resolving an Ethics Complaint:
- Contact the EPP Committee member who is responsible for your geographic region by email and briefly describe the situation. If you're not sure who to contact, email the chair of the committee, Dr. Leigh Armistead, at email@example.com. If you don't have access to email, call Dr. Armistead at 803.323.2631 during regular business hours. The goal of these initial discussions is to determine whether your concern might constitute an ethical violation and whether the committee would have jurisdiction in the matter. Your regional representative may wish to consult with other members of the committee before proceeding further and will need to determine whether the school psychologist is a NASP member or NCSP. They can do so using online databases.
- If your concern is not an appropriate one for the committee to address, the regional representative will, if possible, refer you to another more appropriate organization such as a state department of education.
- If the committee has jurisdiction, committee members may offer to help you resolve the problem informally through communication with the school psychologist and sometimes through mediation.
- If informal approaches are not effective in resolving your concern or the matter involves serious misconduct, committee members will advise you to download a formal complaint and release form. Your form may be submitted via email to Dr. Leigh Armistead (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Dr. Leigh Armistead, Chair
NASP Ethical and Professional Practices Committee
Winthrop University Department of Psychology
Rock Hill, SC 29733
- A complete description of the Committee's procedures for handling formal complaints is available in its Ethics Procedures document. Briefly, the Committee Chair, in consultation with other committee members, will determine whether the complaint will be accepted. The Chair may request additional information from you and then contact the school psychologist requesting cooperation in resolving the matter. Complaints may still be resolved informally at this point without necessarily determining any person's responsibility. Further steps involve a formal investigation, a determination by the Committee of whether a violation has occurred, and, possibly, corrective measures.
- The EPP Committee's decisions are subject to review by a three member Review Committee or in a hearing by an Independent Appeals Committee.
Note: In general, the committee does not accept anonymous reports about ethical misconduct. However, if you are under the administrative or professional authority of the school psychologist about whom you're concerned and wish to keep your identity private, please contact Dr. Armistead at email@example.com or by phone at 803.323.2631 to discuss the matter.