Home  |   Subscribe  |   Resources  |   Reprints  |   Writers' Guidelines

Letters to the Editor
Social Work Today
Vol. 22 No. 2 P. 5

Does the social work Code of Ethics apply to social work professors when teaching (and they are active in practice)?

Thank you,
D. H., School of Social Work Student

Social work faculty members who have social work degrees are held to the NASW Code of Ethics, whether or not they are NASW members. This is because the code is widely considered to be the national standard. I have been an expert witness in litigation cases where a social work defendant asserts that the NASW code does not apply because they are not a member. Courts have concluded otherwise.

Social work faculty members who do not have social work degrees (some programs employ non–social workers—such as lawyers, psychologists, and policy professionals—whose interests and expertise align with social work) are held to the NASW Code of Ethics if the school or department of social work formally adopts the code as a matter of policy and applies it to all faculty and students. By comparison, some social service agencies that employ social workers and people trained in other human service professions have adopted the NASW Code of Ethics for all employees.

The first section of the code states: “The Code is relevant to all social workers and social work students, regardless of their professional functions, the settings in which they work, or the populations they serve.” (emphasis added)

— Frederic G. Reamer, PhD, is an editorial advisor for Social Work Today and a professor in the graduate program of the School of Social Work at Rhode Island College. He is the author of many books and articles, and his research has addressed mental health, health care, criminal justice, and professional ethics.


Why Aren’t Juvenile Records Protected?
If rehabilitation is the founding mission of the juvenile justice system, then should not the protection of juvenile records be the most essential task? The lack of record protection makes juveniles likely to recidivate, as well as experience difficulties with education and employment. While the likelihood of juveniles being given a chance at true rehabilitation is slim, there are implications that can directly address the issue.

Rehabilitation needs to be the primary focus because juveniles do not have the luxury of choosing the environment they are born in. So, there should be no comparison of juvenile delinquency to adult criminal court records.

Additionally, it is vital for records to not be easily accessible on the internet and the public should not have access to the courtroom or sealed records. All juveniles deserve a fair chance to change their life. So, a cost-free record protection process would guarantee inclusivity, instead of adding to the overwhelmingly abundant inequities already present within the juvenile justice system. Similarly, all juveniles need to be informed about the process of sealing and expungement, not just a select few in favor of the privileged. All in favor of continuing to honor practicing inclusiveness? Aye. All youth, regardless of demographics, should be able to navigate this process independently, and there should be no limitation on which and when crimes can be expunged because that only encourages disparities. The most crucial step is to tell the juvenile when their records are eradicated electronically and physically, expeditiously.

If any individual or entity dares to blatantly obtain the audacity to ignore these rules, consequences should follow. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “No man is above the law and no man is below it.”

Marshae Batchelor, MSW Student at Temple University

Shah RS, Strout J; Juvenile Law Center. Future interrupted: the collateral damage caused by proliferation of juvenile records. https://juvenilerecords.jlc.org/juvenilerecords/documents/publications/future-interrupted.pdf. Published February 2016.