“Be Ready for It”: School Counselors’ Experiences with Subpoena and Testifying in Court
Added July 5, 2018
For school counselors, subpoena and testimony experiences on behalf of students are a real possibility. These experiences can be intense, disruptive, affirming, and memorable. School counselors should consider the following if they are ever called to testify in court:
- For school counseling students, maximize your graduate training experiences. Ask your instructors challenging questions. Find internship site supervisors who may have experience and expertise and are willing to help you gain more knowledge on subpoena and testimony experiences. Read resources beyond required texts to acquire as much theoretical and legal knowledge as possible while maintaining an awareness about the limitations of your knowledge.
- Use the ASCA Ethical Standards (2016), ACA Ethical Codes (2014), and the ACA Ethical Decision Making Model to help guide your decision making. Use them early and often.
- Use professional membership resources. ASCA provides future and current school counselors with information and resources.
- Find a mentor who would be willing to support you if you are subpoenaed and testify in court. When choosing a mentor, consider if they need to have subpoena and testifying experience, will uphold confidentiality, and will be a reliable resource.
- Familiarize yourself with the building and location where you will testify. Consider bringing along someone who can support you but who does not need to know the details of your current situation. Have someone ready to help you decompress and talk about your experience afterwards.
- Engage your administration in meaningful conversations about subpoena and testimony experiences. If your administration is less knowledgeable about what protocol or actions should be taken, seek out a trustworthy person and has been subpoenaed and testified in court. Use this opportunity with your administration to develop a plan together.
- Network with other school counselors at building, district, local, and state levels on legal issues to help everyone stay current with state laws regarding what may be asked of you in court.
- Request professional and continuing education seminars on legal issues.
- Finally, remember what you think may be right and best for the student may not always be the best legal decision. For example, several school counselors reported they felt pulled in two different directions and used as leverage against one parent from another in child custody cases. In these instances, knowing who the subpoena is coming from and why they would like you to appear is critical. Keep in mind, not all subpoenas result in a court appearance. While lawyers and other mechanisms within the legal system may quash your responsibility to appear before a judge or jury, constantly communicate with those who are aware of your case and its status to help you prepare. If confused, remember to use the legal resources mentioned above.
Daniel DeCino, PhD, Philip Waalkes, PhD, Christina Matos