Position Statements & Calls for Action
Position Statement: Safe Schools for Transgender and Gender Diverse Students
The Montana Association of School Psychologists (MASP) supports efforts to create and maintain safe and inclusive learning environments for all students, families, and school staff, including those who are transgender or gender diverse. MASP recognizes and respects an individual’s right to express gender identity and modify gender expression as needed to promote personal well-being. MASP supports all students’ rights to question and explore their gender identity in their life-long pursuit of happiness. MASP commits to policies of nondiscrimination and the provision of equal opportunities, fairness, and justice for all human beings.
MASP acknowledges that neither having a transgender identity nor being perceived as gender diverse is a disorder. MASP affirms that efforts to change a person’s gender identity to match their biological sex are ineffective, detrimental, and discriminatory. Research suggests that gender diverse children are at higher risk of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse (Roberts, Rosario, Corliss, Koenen, & Austin, 2012). Youth who experience family rejection of identity are more likely to be at risk for depression, substance use, and suicidal thoughts & attempts (Ryan, Russell, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanches, 2011). In addition to long-term outcome risks, transgender youth face immense challenges during school-aged years, including systemic obstacles to transition. Even if transgender youth have medical insurance, the necessary healthcare procedures and psychotherapies for gender dysphoria are explicitly excluded from most health insurance plans. Transgender youth may experiment with unregulated hormones or silicone injections accessed without medical supervision (i.e., purchased online or street dealers), which may result in disfigurement or death.
Despite these significant barriers, many transgender and gender-diverse youth are resilient with certain factors that may protect them against the worst outcomes. Resilience in children depends on personal characteristics, such as being outgoing, having access to local resources, and holding a positive self-concept. Specifically for transgender and gender diverse children, their resilience stems from strong family and school acceptance, which includes discussing a child’s gender identity or sexual orientation openly and integrating transgender students in activities that align with their gender identity.
All Montana children deserve to be safe and healthy. As school psychologists, one of our top priorities is to ensure that all children are supported with policies and practices that support safety and well-being. MASP opposes bills that amplify messages that transgender, Two-Spirit, and non-binary children are not entitled to the same dignity as all students.
MASP stands in alignment with our national organization (National Association of School Psychologists) affirming the long-standing position that civil rights of transgender students are protected as part of U.S. public schools’ obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This includes respecting a person’s right to express gender identity, and the right to modify gender expression when necessary, and to have their gender identity affirmed and acknowledged. MASP stands in solidarity with all major medical, mental health, and education organizations.
Roberts, A. L., Rosario, M., Corliss, H. L., Koenen, K. C., & Austin, S. B. (2012). Childhood gender nonconformity: A risk indicator for childhood abuse and posttraumatic stress in youth. Pediatrics, 129, 410–417. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-180
Ryan, C., Russell, S. T., Huebner, D., Diaz, R., & Sanchez, J. (2011). Family acceptance in adolescence and the health of LGBT young adults. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 23, 205–213. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6171.2010.00246.x
Position Statement: Virtual Service Delivery during COVID-19 Closures
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in light of a declared national emergency, MASP is aware of the significant impact that mandatory school closures have on the learning and well-being of all children, and the various ways districts are attempting to provide supplemental learning opportunities to students., During this unprecedented time, we recognize that the physical and psychological well-being of students, families, educators and communities are the immediate and overriding priority. Thus far, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has issued various guidance documents which include the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) interpretations regarding the IDEA and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) interpretations regarding 504/ADA.
As we prepare for shifts in school psychologist service delivery during this COVID-19 school building closure, the Montana Association of School Psychologists (MASP) in conjunction with the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) is issuing guidance regarding responding to the COVID-19 crisis with virtual service delivery. This guidance ceases once school buildings re-open.
Virtual service delivery is defined as providing services remotely, where the School Psychologist and the client (student, parent, staff, etc.) are physically located in two different locations and services are provided using technology via the Internet. It is also commonly referred to as teletherapy or telehealth.
With regard to legal mandates, ethical assessment, and decision-making practices it is currently considered acceptable practice to conduct Evaluation Team Meetings, Individualized Education Plan meetings, and Team Problem solving meetings/Consultations via virtual means, so long as the parent agrees to the virtual service delivery. Parents should be informed of the possibility of breeches in confidentiality prior to holding these meetings, with the conversation and parent approval/denial being documented. It is also currently acceptable during this time for a Montana School Psychologist who holds a valid Class 6 licensure to provide direct services. Such direct services may include counseling documented in the student’s IEP and mental health services. Due to the likely limited availability for supervision, it is not recommended that Montana School Psychologists holding a Class 5 licensure provide direct services at this time. As always ethical and legal considerations need to be adhered to if the decision to use virtual means for services is made. Current considerations should include the practitioner’s competency and training for virtual service delivery, internet access and bandwidth for staff and students, environmental set-up (headphones/privacy/distractions), age & functioning of the student, student characteristics/behaviors, and documentation of informed consent.
With the same regard to legal mandates, ethical assessment, and decision-making practices it is currently NOT considered acceptable practice to conduct direct observation and certain assessments through means other than face-to-face. A comprehensive and individualized evaluation, initial or reevaluation, requires direct classroom based observation of the student in the child’s learning environment. Assessments must be administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel, and administered in accordance with any instruction, including standardized protocols provided by the producer of the assessment to remain valid and reliable. Furthermore, current circumstances may lead to validity issues which must be addressed when assessments are taking place in a time of heightened anxiety and uncertainty for youth, their families and caregivers, and school personnel. The likelihood of making inappropriate eligibility determinations based on invalid assessment data is high, which could lead to misidentification of students with disabilities.
With consideration of the ethical implications and responsible assessment practices, the Montana Association of School Psychologists strongly recommends upholding the advice provided by the U.S. Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights as follows, “If an evaluation of a student with a disability requires face-to-face assessment or observation, the evaluation would need to be delayed until school reopens. Initial evaluations and re-evaluations that do not requires face-to-face assessments of observations may take place while schools are closed, so long as a student’s parent or legal guardian consents.”
The purpose of Montana Association of School Psychologists is to promote ethical principles and practices in the field of school psychology and to enhance and protect the rights and welfare of children and youth. Therefore, we feel we have an ethical obligation to promote best practices in virtual service delivery and psychological assessment during this time.
Call for Action: Prevent Gun Violence in the United States of America
Interdisciplinary Group on Preventing School and Community Violence
School shootings and widespread community gun violence are far greater in the United States than other nations. America cannot be great and realize its promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness if our children are not safe from gun violence.
Although security measures are important, a focus on simply preparing for shootings is insufficient. We need a change in mindset and policy from reaction to prevention. Prevention entails more than security measures and begins long before a gunman comes to school. We need a comprehensive public health approach to gun violence that is informed by scientific evidence and free from partisan politics.
A public health approach to protecting children as well as adults from gun violence involves three levels of prevention: (1) universal approaches promoting safety and well-being for everyone; (2) practices for reducing risk and promoting protective factors for persons experiencing difficulties; and (3) interventions for individuals where violence is present or appears imminent.
On the first level we need:
- A national requirement for all schools to assess school climate and maintain physically and emotionally safe conditions and positive school environments that protect all students and adults from bullying, discrimination, harassment, and assault;
- A ban on assault-style weapons, high-capacity ammunition clips, and products that modify semi-automatic firearms to enable them to function like automatic firearms.
On the second level we need:
- Adequate staffing (such as counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers) of coordinated school- and community-based mental health services for individuals with risk factors for violence, recognizing that violence is not intrinsically a product of mental illness;
- Reform of school discipline to reduce exclusionary practices and foster positive social, behavioral, emotional, and academic success for students;
- Universal background checks to screen out violent offenders, persons who have been hospitalized for violence towards self or others, and persons on no-fly, terrorist watch lists.
On the third level we need:
- A national program to train and maintain school- and community-based threat assessment teams that include mental health and law enforcement partners. Threat assessment programs should include practical channels of communication for persons to report potential threats as well as interventions to resolve conflicts and assist troubled individuals;
- Removal of legal barriers to sharing safety-related information among educational, mental health, and law enforcement agencies in cases where a person has threatened violence;
- Laws establishing Gun Violence Protection Orders that allow courts to issue time-limited restraining orders requiring that firearms be recovered by law enforcement when there is evidence that an individual is planning to carry out acts against others or against themselves.
Congress and the executive branch must remove barriers to gun violence research and institute a program of scientific research on gun violence that encompasses all levels of prevention. We contend that well-executed laws can reduce gun violence while protecting all Constitutional rights.
It’s time for federal and state authorities to take immediate action to enact these proposals and provide adequate resources for effective implementation. We call on law enforcement, mental health, and educational agencies to begin actions supporting these prevention efforts. We ask all parents and youth to join efforts advocating for these changes, and we urge voters to elect representatives who will take effective action to prevent gun violence in our nation.
The complete MASP endorsed statement can be found HERE
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