I still remember that day when a mental health worker burst into my office, clearly upset, because I knew the “historical background” of one of his client attending our school. “This is confidential information” I can still hear him say….”How did the school know? How did you get to know about this?” Well, let me tell you…but first, let’s put a context to the story.
When we hear about criminals on the news we need to remind ourselves that these offenders were once youth. Some of them even started their criminal career as teens within their school while others focused on the larger community. And then we have the young offenders placed in a school, sometimes even another school district, due to the severity of other extenuating circumstances.
School Boards are responsible to provide a learning environment that is safe and secure to all students and staff. Maintaining a safe school environment is a concern of all school personnel. In order to do so, I believe school staff require accurate information about young people involved in the youth justice system. One might wonder about confidentiality? Are there limits to a young offender’s confidentiality for school personnel? No, there are no limits; however, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act states:
The provincial director, a youth worker, the Attorney General, a peace officer or any other person engaged in the provision of services to young persons may disclose to any professional or other persons engaged in the supervision or care of a young person – including a representative of any school board or school or any other educational or training institution – any information contained in a record kept under sections 114 to 116 if the disclosure is necessary.
(a) to ensure compliance with court orders;
(b) to ensure the safety of students and staff,
(c) to facilitate the rehabilitation of the young person.
In other words, the disclosure of information will only be given on a “need to know basis” to those staff and others who may have to provide for the safety of students and staff. Hence the reason as to why I was privy to the information. As a school counsellor, my responsibility not only lies with the student trying to reintegrate into the school system but also to those already attending. I have to find a balance between the right of the individual and the protection of students from harm.
Department of Justice Canada, Youth Criminal Justice Act, Schools and others, Section 125 (6) from http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng,acts/Y-1.5/page-50.html
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA