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Unofficial Opinion 97-31

Unofficial Opinion 97-31

October 23, 1997
To: 

Senator
District 29

Re: 

Interpretation of O.C.G.A. 43-10A-7 regarding school counselors using the title "Professional School Counselors."

This letter is in response to your request for an unofficial opinion regarding school counselors using the title "Professional School Counselor," when such counselors do not hold licenses issued pursuant to Title 43, Chapter 10A.

Specifically, you inquire whether practicing school counselors who have been certified by the Professional Standards Commission may use the title Professional School Counselor pursuant to O.C.G.A. † 43-10A-7(b)(7).

In interpreting statutes you must look to the plain meaning of the statute. See O.C.G.A. † 1-3-1. Official Code of Georgia Annotated † 43-10A-7 expressly provides:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a person who is not licensed under this chapter shall not practice professional counseling, . . . nor advertise the performance of such practice, nor use the title "professional counselor," . . . nor use any words, letters, titles, or figures indicating or implying that the person is a professional counselor, . . . or is licensed under this chapter.

(b) The prohibition of subsection (a) of this Code section shall not apply to the following persons: . . . .

(7) Elementary, middle, or secondary school counselors and school social workers certificated as such by the Department of Education, Professional Standards Commission, or its successor agency but only when practicing within the scope of such certification and only when designated by the title "school counselor," "school social worker," or a title designated by the school system in which they are employed for persons practicing within such certification.

In light of the explicit provisions of O.C.G.A. † 43-10A-7(b)(7) as set out above, the prohibition against the use of the term "professional" does not apply when school counselors or school social workers:

(a) are certificated as counselors or social workers by the Professional Standards Commission;

(b) are practicing in the school system within that scope of their certification; and

(c) are designated by the title "school counselor," "school social worker," or other title designated by the school system in which they are employed.

Rule 135-10-.02 of the Rules of The Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists specifically prohibits persons who do not hold valid licenses issued by the Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists from using the title "Professional School Counselor." However, Rule 135-10-.04 explicitly states that this prohibition does not apply to persons exempt under O.C.G.A. † 43-10A-7(b). The prohibition set out in Rule 135-10-.02 only acts to prevent school counselors who do not satisfy the requirements of the statutory exemption codified in O.C.G.A. † 43-10A-7(b)(7) from using the title "Professional School Counselor."

Therefore, it is my unofficial opinion that practicing school counselors may use the title "Professional School Counselors" so long as they meet the requirements set forth above.

Prepared by:

MARY H. BRANNEN
Assistant Attorney General