Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Postcard 6: Privacy

mcsweeney's picture

This postcard was inspired by the group discussion we had last class, in which we talked about Shay’s book and the “Helping Traumatized Children Learn” website, while tying that into the idea of listening. Throughout this conversation, I was wondering about the issue of privacy. To represent the idea of privacy, I drew the image of a lock and a key. Along the side of the postcard is the question “What is at stake?” and on the door, around the lock, there are words, such as “trust” and “agency” that represent ideas relating to privacy and confidentiality. I think that it is vital to listen well to a person opening up to share about trauma that they have experienced in their life, which is a very personal story, and I think that it is also important to respect the boundaries and privacy of the person. I would say that respecting the privacy of a person is a part of quality listening. In the section about the “whole-school effort” on the website about “Helping Traumatized Children Learn,” it seemed to say that everyone in the community should be aware of a student’s trauma and work to make the school environment as comfortable for that student as possible. I see the value in that kind of system, but I worry that it could infringe upon the privacy of the student. I think students usually only trust a few adults that they know in their school, rather than the entire faculty and staff. If a student felt that everyone was aware of their personal trauma, they may feel like they cannot trust anyone. They may feel singled out, or even paranoid. I’m sure some students would do very well in an environment such as the one described on the website, but I think that some students with traumatic experiences would not feel comfortable, even though the entire goal is to make them feel comfortable. Young people have very little agency over their own privacy in the first place, so I think that letting students know that their personal conversations with teachers and staff are confidential is important. Students should have consent over whether or not their story is shared and who it is shared with.  


alesnick's picture

Such an important point!  Very well said: "I would say that respecting the privacy of a person is a part of quality listening."  There is a delicacy and restraint here, so crucial. And well symbolized, too, by key hole, which pictures both opening and boundary.  The question of students' rights to choose in whom to confide is really important.