Top VT Educators Advocate for Consent-based Guidance Counseling

MONTPELIER – In the wake of allegations of misconduct against the former guidance director of Burlington High School, the state’s top overseer of learning, Ed Caisson has issued the following statement: “As we are teaching our young people about consent regarding sexual activities, my colleagues and I would like to see guidance counseling move toward a similar consent-based model of service provision to avoid future controversies. Under such a model, parents would draw up contracts with counselors saying things like, ‘Ms. Seer will assist Johnny in completing applications to three colleges.’ The responsibilities of each person(s) involved in Johnny’s essay writing process will then be written out in a description detailing what the counselor will do to help with writing the applications and how Johnny’s parents will assist him with the task. Both parents and counselor would sign the plan. Any overstepping of boundaries, or failure to complete the tasks assigned, by either party would then be resolved in court. This process protects the district and the children.”

Student advocate Kitty Mei disagrees with the proposal. “You’re getting consent from the adults, but you’re not getting student buy-in. I think kids should also sign.” Mei also worries that the consent form discourages trust and may harm the student/employee relationship. “What kid under eighteen is going to divulge their depression, anxiety, or problems in their love life if they know their problems will turn into a list of bullet points that their guardians will see and sign off on? If all guidance dilemmas become words agreed upon and seen by adults, that does serious harm to the safety of the counselor-pupil rapport.”

Caisson agrees with Mei’s concerns and says he welcomes input from all those with a stake in public schools–guardians, students, and school employees–in developing the new guidance policy. “Bottom line, there has been too much harmful non-consensual guidance counseling going on in Vermont, and these misguided behaviors must stop.”

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