Department of Social Work
Cheryl Nitz, B.S., M.S.W.
Associate Professor of Social Work
Liberty University’s Department of Social Work is committed to the core values and competencies of the Social Work profession as outlined in the current Educational Policies and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) document. The Department of Social work upholds the core values of “service, social justice, the dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, integrity, competence, human rights, and scientific inquiry” in interactions with faculty, staff, and students (EPAS, 2015, p. 10).
Liberty University, including its Department of Social Work, does not engage in unlawful discrimination or harassment because of race, color, ancestry, religion, age, sex, national origin, pregnancy or childbirth, disability or military veteran status in its educational programs and activities. Liberty University maintains its Christian mission and reserves its right to discriminate on the basis of religion to the extent that applicable law respects its right to act in furtherance of its religious objectives.
For the safety and wellbeing of our students and constituents, the Department of Social Work takes into account many relevant factors (e.g., academic, behavioral, and professional readiness; as well as personal references and history) in making its decisions about admissions, readiness for field experience, and ability to continue in the program. All students must be able to meet all of the skills and competencies required for the program, as set forth in the B.S. in Social Work Student Handbook, with or without reasonable accommodation to be considered qualified. Students have the opportunity to request disability-related accommodations through the Office of Disability Accommodation Support (ODAS) at the contact information below.
The following persons have been designated to coordinate Liberty University’s compliance with certain anti-discrimination laws: Coordinator of LU Online Disability Accommodation Support at (434) 592-5417 or email@example.com; Director of Disability Accommodation Support (Residential) at (434) 582-2159 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Executive Director of Equity and Compliance / Title IX at (434) 592-4999 or TitleIX@liberty.edu.
*Council on Social Work Education (2015) (CSWE) Commission on Educational Policy and the CSWE Commission on Accreditation; Educational Policy approved by the CSWE Board of Directors on March 20, 2015; Accreditation Standards approved by the CSWE Commission on Accreditation on June 11, 2015.
Administrative Review for Behavioral Intervention
In keeping with the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics (ACA), National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and the American Psychological Association (APA), Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) requirements, faculty in counselor the School of Behavioral Sciences’ education programs are required to assess the knowledge, skills, values, and dispositions of students in their programs and take action if issues arise that could compromise the well-being of present or future clients. The following summarizes the School of Behavioral Sciences procedures for assessing these competencies.
Behavioral Concerns at Practicum, and Internship, and Field Placement Sites
If, during the Practicum or Internship or Field Placement, a student fails to successfully demonstrate the required skills, professional behaviors, or personal or professional dispositions in this course and/or receives failing evaluations, is dismissed from the site, or is found practicing at a site without having received approval by the department for the site, the site supervisor will notify the student’s professor. The professor will write an incident report and send it to the Program Director and the department’s Internship Office. The Program Director, the Director of Clinical Training, and the Leadership Team will examine the nature and reason for the skills deficit, professional behaviors, or dispositions and/or site dismissal and recommend a course of action, which could include Administrative Review for Behavioral Intervention and/or referral to Remediation and/or the Office of Community Life. Administrative Review is appropriate when a student’s behavior is so concerning and/or non-professional that prompt protective action is required (see below section, “Administrative Review for Behavioral Intervention”). Note: The steps within this section are specifically designed to address unique aspects of practicum and internships, and certain steps in this section may overlap with those of other processes. For instance, the practicum or internship professor’s submission of an incident report to the Program Director and Internship Office and their examination of the incident report will satisfy the early and secondary stages of the remediation process (i.e., remediation stages 1-3). Also note that remediation can be engaged at any step, as the School of Behavioral Sciences deems appropriate.
If a failing evaluation or dismissal from the site involves a violation of the University’s Honor Code, the professor will fill out an Honor Code Violation form, which will be investigated by the Program Director and the Office of Community Life. At any point in this process, the student may receive a grade of “F” based on the skills deficit, professional behaviors, or personal or professional dispositions, dismissal from their site, and/or failure to follow approval policies. The student will be placed on hold in the program pending the outcome of any ongoing process(es) (e.g., Administrative Review, the remediation process, the disciplinary process, and/or grade appeals process).
For violations that do not result in dismissal from the program, the remediation process can include requiring the student to retake certain courses, seek personal counseling, etc. If, after remediation, the student is unable to correct the deficits, the Remediation Committee will meet to decide the best course of action for the student, up to and including an “F” for the course and dismissal from the program. The final decision regarding whether the student is eligible to retake the Internship and disposition of the hours accrued during the Internship are at the discretion of the Leadership Team and based on a thorough evaluation of the incident. Note: When necessary, the Department may immediately remove a student from the site upon notification of concerning behavior by the supervisor. During the remediation process, the student has an opportunity to appeal interim actions following Administrative Review, grades, honor code violations, and dismissals in accordance with the procedures outlined for the applicable process(es). See, for example, Appeals Policy (Section 6.3) and the appeal sections below for information on the appeal process. Please consult the Practicum Field Manual and Internship Field Manual for additional information.
Administrative Review for Behavioral Intervention
There may be times when School of Behavioral Sciences faculty determines that a student’s behavior is so concerning and/or non-professional, regardless of whether the student is making satisfactory academic progress, that prompt protective action is required. This is especially true when students are interacting with clients in a clinical setting. In such situations, the program director will place the student on Administrative Review. As part of Administrative Review, the program director will review all of the available and relevant evidence to determine an appropriate interim action to address the concerning behavior, which may include an interim suspension of the student from courses, internships, or clinical placements. The program director may, in his or her discretion, also apply a registration hold to prevent the student from registering for courses, internships, or clinical placements (and potentially, therefore, from progressing in the program) until the behavior at issue has been resolved. The interim action should be narrowly tailored to address the concerning behavior such that it places as few restrictions as possible on the student and only as determined necessary to address the concerning behavior. Interim actions should also balance the School of Behavioral Sciences’ gatekeeping function of protecting others with promoting the student’s best interest. Administrative Review is protective, not disciplinary, in nature. Interim actions will remain in place until the program director (in consultation with the student and faculty) determines both that the concerning behavior has been resolved and that any pending processes to address the student’s behavior are complete (e.g., the remediation process or a disciplinary matter in the Office of Community Life or the Office of Equity and Compliance).
Within 48 hours of the program director’s decision to initiate the Administrative Review, the program director will notify the student in writing, which may include email, of (1) the initiation of the Administrative Review, (2) the interim action(s) imposed, and (3) the reason(s) for the Administrative Review. The program director will also notify the Registrar’s Office of the interim action(s), including any registration hold. The student will have an opportunity to review all of the evidence that formed the basis for the interim action(s) and to respond (including the opportunity to present any relevant evidence) to the program director. Once the program director has an opportunity to review all of the available and relevant evidence, the program director will either reverse the interim action(s) or keep the interim action(s) in place pending the outcome of any other processes (e.g., remediation). The program director may refer the student to the Office of Community Life and/or the Remediation Committee. If the student’s behavior cannot be remedied to a point such that the student is qualified to continue in the program, the student may ultimately be dismissed from the program. Should the student decide to appeal the interim action(s) imposed by the program director, the student must follow the appeal procedures below.
Appeal of Interim Action(s) Following Administrative Review
Students who disagree with the interim action(s) imposed by the program director following Administrative Review have an opportunity to appeal. Students must submit the appeal in writing to the Deans of the School of Behavioral Sciences within seven (7) days of receiving the notice of the program director’s decision. The appeal should clearly state the reason(s) the student believes the interim action(s) should be reversed. Once received, the Deans of the School of Behavioral Sciences (or designee) will review all available and relevant evidence and, if determined necessary, speak with the student, the program director, and/or any other person with relevant information. The Deans of the School of Behavioral Sciences (or designee) will endeavor to make a determination within ten (10) days of receiving the appeal. The determination to uphold or reverse the interim action(s) will be sent to the student in writing, and the Deans of the School of Behavioral Sciences (or designee)’s determination concerning the interim action(s) will be final, pending the outcome of any other processes.
If, during the course of a student’s studies, a faculty, staff, administrator or supervisor believes a student lacks required skills, professional behaviors and dispositions to progress in the program, that person will begin remediation procedures aimed to provide the student with information and actions to correct the impairment/deficiency. The purpose of the remediation plan is to assist the student in correcting any deficits in counseling knowledge and skills, as well as problematic personal, interpersonal, or ethical behaviors so the student may successfully continue in the program. As such, remedial instruction or interventions are closely linked to the students’ developmental growth, recognizing the relationship between the alleviation of deficiencies and the development of new competencies.
We conceptualize remediation in terms of a response continuum based upon the type and severity of students’ limitations, with the need to distinguish between deficient, lacks competence, and impaired:
- Deficient: Requires skill-based and/or academic approach
- Lacks competence: Requires additional ethical practice-based / conceptual approach
- Impaired: Requires additional intervention-based and/or therapeutic approach
The problematic behavior continuum can also be considered along lines of Academic, Clinical, and Personal, with Academic being more related to deficiencies and Personal more related to impairments. Clinical limitations may likely have both Academic and Personal involvement. Additionally, the program response can be considered along a continuum of education, formal remediation, and termination.
Deficient describes those behaviors, attitudes, or characteristics that need to be the focus of attention and change, but are not considered excessive or inappropriate. Rather, they may be important components of the student’s learning experience. At this level, remediation likely involves instruction and feedback to address the deficit.
Lacks Competence describes a deficit in developmentally appropriate clinical competencies that are needed for ethical practice. These would include area such as performance of counseling skills and/or professional behaviors, attitudes, or characteristics, response to supervision, and/or ability application of ethics into practice. These behaviors are considered to be excessive or inappropriate, requiring remedial action beyond the course instructor or supervisor.
Impairment describes those behaviors that result in a significant negative impact on professional functioning. Impairment is demonstrated by one or more of the following behaviors: (a) an inability and/or unwillingness to acquire and integrate professional standards into their repertoire of professional behavior; (b) an inability to acquire professional skills to reach an acceptable level of competency; (c) an inability to control personal stress, psychological dysfunction and/or excessive emotional reactions that interfere with professional functioning.
The Type and Severity of Limitation are considered when determining the need, if any, for remediation.
Students Determined to be Deficient:
- Inadequate knowledge base commensurate with status in program Inadequate, but improving, counseling skills
- Rudimentary ethical processing
- Simplistic, narrow, or disjointed case conceptualization
- Insufficient interpersonal skills and awareness, but willingness to develop
Students Determined to Lack Competence:
- Lack of awareness of ethical principles and obligations
- Failure in responsibilities to site and/or supervisor
- Unwillingness/inability to be effective in basic counseling techniques
- Unwillingness/inability to complete appropriate documentation
- Failure to function as effective member of treatment team
Students Determined to be Impaired (not inclusive):
- Interpersonal and Personal Problems
- Inappropriate interpersonal skills
- Lacks self-control (anger, impulse control) in relationships
- Inappropriate boundaries
- Misleads or exploits others
- Lacks awareness of the impact they have on others
- Unwilling to receive feedback in supervision
- Does not take responsibility for deficiencies and/or problems
- Professional Competence
- Lacks foundational counseling skills
- Inappropriate affect in response to clients
- Does not recognize limitations of expertise and competence
- Does not apply ethical and/or legal standards to practice
- Lacks awareness of how their beliefs and values influence practice
- Does not demonstrate a respect individual differences and culture
- Professional Behaviors
- Deficits in punctuality, professional appearance, attendance, dependability
- Does not complete appropriate paperwork and documentation
- Does not adhere to the department’s or their clinical site’s policies
- Professional and Personal Integrity and Maturity
- Makes false, misleading or deceptive statements
- Displayed academic dishonesty
- Problems with alcohol/drug use or illegal activities
- Inappropriate sexual behavior
- Refused to consider personal counseling when recommended
Once the Type and Severity of Limitation are determined, there are several avenues that may be pursued when determining the need, if any, for remediation. Faculty are encouraged to consult with the program director, faculty remediation committee members, and other faculty when deciding the level of severity and which stage to engage the remediation process. Please note that the remediation process is not always linear or sequential. Faculty reserve the right to initiate remediation at whatever stage they deem appropriate for the student.
Early Remediation Process (Stages 1 and 2)
- Faculty or advisor meets with the student
- Determine action plan for addressing deficits Follow-up
Secondary Review Remediation Process (Stage 3)
- Notification of meeting with the director
- Assessment of problematic behavior
- Review and development of a plan
- Acceptance or appeal
Formal Remediation Process (Stages 4-6) Notification
- Assessment of Problematic Behavior Development of a Plan
- Acceptance or Appeal
- Provision if Unsuccessful
Possible Committee Recommendations for a Remediation Plan
- Personal Counseling
- Increased supervision
- Reduced practicum or internship
- Leave of absence
- Formal reprimand
- Formal probation
- Counseling out of the program
- Dismissal from the program
In the event of a student’s disclosure, either verbally, or in writing, of a threat of serious or foreseeable harm to a person, abuse or neglect of a minor, elderly or disabled person, or current involvement in criminal activity, the faculty, staff, administrator or supervisor, will take immediate action. This action may include, but is not limited to, immediate notification of Liberty University Police Department, appropriate state law enforcement, social services personnel, emergency contacts, and notification of the appropriate program chair or associate Deans. The incident and action taken will become part of the student’s permanent record.
Remediation Process for the School of Behavioral Sciences:
Note: The remediation plan is designed to protect the student’s rights under University policies and a fair process. In addition, we stress the importance of engaging the student in the remediation process. These principles are infused throughout the School of Behavioral Sciences program’s response continuum. Once a remediation plan is instituted, student response to remediation efforts is considered when deciding student status in the program. All stages of this remediation process will become a part of the student’s record. The description of stages below does not necessarily reflect a sequential process. Rather, the faculty reserve the right to initiate remediation at any Stage 1, 2, 3, or 4-6, based on their assessment of the level of deficit and/or impairment.
Stage 1: Notification by Advisor:
When a determination is made by a faculty member that problematic behavior of an academic, clinical, or personal nature exists, and could not be resolved on an informal basis, the faculty member discusses this with the student and her or his advisor. If student problematic behavior is brought to the attention of the department through other means (e.g., from another student, report from university staff, evaluation from supervisor, etc.), the student’s advisor will notify the student and discuss the concerns.
The student and her or his advisor will meet to discuss the problem and collaboratively outline a remedial action plan to address the concerns. This interactive process should allow the student ample opportunity to react to the information presented regarding a problem area. If the problem is resolved, no further action is needed. The advisor will document the meeting, the remedial action plan, and outcome into the student’s personal record. The advisor will follow up with the faculty to ensure that the agreed-to remedial action plan was completed and the behavioral issue was successfully resolved.
If the problem is not resolved at this stage because the student does not engage in the process, disagrees with the validity of the concerns, or does not agree with the remedial action plan, the advisor will notify the program director of the outcome of the meeting. A meeting will then be scheduled with the student's advisor, the program director, the student, and the concerned faculty member as appropriate. This meeting will be considered a Stage 3 remediation.
Stage 2: Primary Assessment of Problematic Behavior:
If the behaviors addressed by the program faculty and the advisor persist, the advisor will again meet with the student and outline, verbally and in writing, the continued nature and extent of problematic behavior. Informal (e.g., interview with student and faculty) and formal (e.g., instruments) may be utilized as part of the assessment process. This includes feedback from the student concerning the outcome of any remedial actions taken by the student in response to the concerns raised during the notification session. When it is apparent that the student is engaged in the process but has not met the goal of the initial remedial action, a collaborative approach involving student engagement will be used to evaluate and refine the remedial action plan. If the problem is successfully resolved, no further formal action is needed. The advisor will document the meeting; outline the agreed adaptations to the remedial action plan; and the outcome. The advisor will follow up with faculty and the program director to ensure that the behavioral issues were successfully resolved and all agreed-to remedial mandates were implemented.
Stage 3: Secondary Assessment of Problematic Behavior:
If the faculty advisor or core faculty determine that the student’s behaviors are at a level that requires a formal remediation process (Stage 4) or the student rejects or appeals a remedial action plan, a meeting will be held with the student, his or her advisor, the program director, and referring faculty member (if appropriate). The meeting date will be set to allow the student the opportunity to provide additional evidence to the group for consideration at the meeting. The purpose of the meeting will be to either 1) collaboratively re-assess the problem behavior and develop a remedial action plan or 2) determine that the problem needs to be addressed by the program core faculty through a remediation plan. The program director will document the meeting and outcome. The program director will report the meeting outcome to the faculty Remediation Committee.
Stage 4: Referral to the Remediation Committee:
In cases when the outcome of the meeting of the student, advisor(s) and program director results in a decision that the situation should be brought to the Remediation Committee, a meeting of the committee will be scheduled. The student will be informed in advance of the time of this meeting and will have an opportunity to provide additional information or evidence in writing to the committee for consideration at the meeting. Once all information has been presented, the Remediation Committee will decide the level and scope of remediation required to assist the student and develop a formal Remediation Plan.
Stage 5: Development of a Remediation Plan:
The Remediation Committee will review the presented information, examine the remedial action plan developed by the student and advisor, evaluate the progress made towards remediating problem behaviors, and develop a formal Remediation Plan. The purpose of the remediation plan is to assist the student in correcting any deficits in counseling skills or personal, interpersonal, or ethical problems so that the student may successfully continue in the program. The elements of the plan will be congruent with the extent of the correction needed. Remediation Plans can include such actions as repeating particular courses, obtaining personal counseling, completing additional assignments, reviewing the ethics code, transferring to a non-licensure program, or academic dismissal from the select department in the School of Behavioral Sciences or Liberty University.
The program director and/or other designated persons will inform the student of the decision both orally and in writing. The student will have five working days to respond in writing (and orally, if desired) to the recommendation. The committee will review the student’s response to the action decided and will make a final decision regarding the disposition of the case. Should the student file no response to the action, the decision of the committee will be considered as final. The program director and the student's advisor will notify the student in writing and orally of the outcome of the meeting.
Stage 6: Acceptance or Appeal:
The student will be given the opportunity to accept the plan of correction or to appeal it. If accepted, the student will follow the plan as developed and regularly report progress to her or his advisor. If not fully resolved, additions, amendments, or extensions to the plan may be implemented. If the problematic behavior is corrected, no further action is needed. Four options are available to faculty when reevaluating the student: (1) continuation in the program, (2) continued probation and remediation, (3) counsel the student out of the program, and (4) dismissal from the program.
Provision if Unsuccessful:
If the Remediation Committee determines that remediation is unsuccessful or that the student refuses to comply with the Remediation Plan, the Remediation Committee may recommend to the program director that the student be dismissed from the program.
Final Determination Following Recommendation of Dismissal:
Based on the Remediation Committee’s recommendation of dismissal, the program director will either dismiss the student from the program or allow the student to remain in the program until the concerning behavior has been fully addressed to the satisfaction of both the program director and the Remediation Committee. If the student is dismissed from the program, the program director will provide a notice of dismissal to the student in writing. If any interim action(s) were put into place following Administrative Review (e.g., interim suspension or registration hold), those interim action(s) will remain in place. If the program director allows the student to remain in the program, the student must continue to work with the Remediation Committee to address its concerns. Any interim action(s) from Administrative Review will remain in effect, and accordingly, the student should be aware that, if he or she does not re-enroll in courses within a certain period of time, he or she may break enrollment and need to re-apply to the program. In those situations, admission is not guaranteed. The student may appeal the program director’s final determination of dismissal. Should the student decide to appeal his or her dismissal, he or she must follow the appeal procedures outlined below.
Appeal of Dismissal:
Students who disagree with the program director’s final determination have an opportunity to appeal. The appeal must be submitted in writing to the Deans of the School of Behavioral Sciences within seven (7) days of notification of receiving the notice of the program director’s decision. The appeal should clearly state the reason(s) the student believes the final determination should be overturned. Once received, the Deans of the School of Behavioral Sciences (or designee) will review all relevant evidence and, if necessary, speak with the student, the program director, and any others who have relevant information (e.g., members of the Remediation Committee). The Deans of the School of Behavioral Sciences (or designee) will endeavor to make a determination within ten (10) days of receiving the appeal. The determination to uphold or overturn the final determination will be sent to the student in writing, and the Deans of the School of Behavioral Sciences (or designee)’s determination concerning the interim action(s) will be final, pending the outcome of any separate processes. If the Deans of the School of Behavioral Sciences (or designee) overturns a dismissal, the student will have the option either to remain in the program and continue work with the Remediation Committee to fully address its concerns, or to withdraw from the program.