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Reflection: Legal, Ethical, and Professional Practices

My development as a school psychologist has taken great strides over the past three years. One area I have sought significant development in is Legal, Ethical, and Professional Practices. Throughout my coursework at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP), the legal and ethical responsibilities of school psychologists have been stressed. Initially, it was hard to conceptualize these responsibilities without the application of my skills. However, as I gained more responsibility in my site and delved deeper into the field, I began to understand the many facets that interact within the field. As part of my second year program of study I completed a course on legal, ethical, and professional issues in school psychology. Though the course material was overwhelming at times, it provided a well-rounded picture of the responsibilities I hold as a school psychologist from Federal Special Education mandates to Ethical Standards put forth by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). We also focused a great deal of time reviewing laws put forth by the state of Massachusetts. It was critical that I gain an understanding of these state specific laws as I prepared for internship. Despite this preparation, I decided to complete my internship in another state, Connecticut. After final exams and final papers were passed in I began to research the various legal and ethical mandates of Connecticut. I knew that upon entering my internship site there would be an expectation that I have a working knowledge of state laws, just as other interns from programs within Connecticut did. In order to start off on the right foot I reviewed materials on the State Department of Education in order to prepare myself. When I reported for my first day in August I learned that one of the professional development trainings that would take place involved an update on Special Education Laws that had passed over the summer (July 2012). This training was highly informative and included information about adjustments to the Planning and Placement Team Process and new bullying laws. The presenter was an Attorney for the district and she worked hard to relate the legal jargon to the everyday work we do. As I sat in the audience trying to absorb as much of the material as I could, I realized that many of the professionals around me were raising their hands to ask questions and get clarification. This reassured me that even though I had been trained in a different state, there was always learning to take place, even in the most familiar of situations. Following this training I looked for more opportunities to broaden my understanding, especially in terms of the Planning and Placement Team process. I attended more Planning and Placement Team meetings than I can remember and was sure to observe different chair people so I could get a sense of their style, as school psychologists coordinate and run meetings in Connecticut. I also did research on the Planning and Placement Team process and tried to conceptualize the similarities and differences between Massachusetts process. I also had to learn a whole new Individualized Education Plan layout. In addition to learning on the job, I attended a training for new school psychologists run by the State Department of Education and Connecticut Association of School Psychologists. This orientation was tailored for early career school psychologists and/or school psychologists who were new to Connecticut. Topics covered included special education law, bullying law, scientific research-based intervention (SRBI) process/Response to Intervention, and the Department of Children and Families. I acknowledge that I am not done learning and still rely on my supervisor to answer questions on a daily basis. However, I can say that I have made great gains in only a few short months in terms of understanding the legal practices in Connecticut. With each day on the job I have increased my understanding of ethical and professional practices, and the way they are affected by legal practices in the state.

Updated: 12/2/2012