I had seen a lot stuff by the time I was fourteen. Two alcoholic parents meant I had lived in more rehab centres than I could remember. I’d been in foster care, lived with relatives I barely knew and been separated from my sisters. Before my 14th birthday, I had been to seventeen schools and lived in countless houses.
At an age when many other kids are stressing mainly about braces and homework, I had seen my dad passed out in his own vomit, cried as I poured my mum’s wine down the sink and woken up to an empty house way too many times.
And through it all, I went to school.
The day after my mum left us alone, I went to school.
The day after my dad died, I went to school.
The day after I found out I would never be living with my sisters again, I went to school.
I went to school, because it was one of the only places I felt in control. Through everything, school was a constant for me. A safe place. I loved the routine and the order. I loved that no matter how many different schools you went to, there was always recess and lunch and assembly and sport. I loved the adults who weren’t drunk and didn’t give me a sick feeling in my stomach.
School saved me, and the hero at the helm of that rescue mission was always the school counsellor. It didn’t matter whether I was talking about my dad’s suicide or how mean Melissa had been to me in Food Tech. They were the adults who made me feel like adults could be trusted. And that was something I desperately needed in life.
Which is why news today about the privacy of school counselling sessions is making me a little nervous. SMH.com is reporting that a new national privacy manual for independent schools says that a principal may access a student’s counselling files whenever they see fit, to ensure safety and wellbeing of all students in their care.
Jenny Allum, headmaster at NSW independent school SCEGGS Darlinghurst, told SMH that she has an understanding with her school’s counsellor that she could see any student files requested when necessary, and that “psychologists have to understand that they are an employee of the school and their files belong to the school.”
So basically, any principal at any independent school can read a detailed account of what any student has said to any school counsellor at any time.