What's Going on with the Texas Social Work Code of Conduct?
Recently the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners (TSBSWE) and the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council (BHEC) approved changes to our code of conduct suggested by Governor Greg Abbott that erase protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. Read on or watch the video to understand what happened, why it happened, and what you can do.
After a bit of research and a ton of work by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Texas Chapter, I feel like I finally understand why this happened. Note: I do not agree with and denounce the two boards' (TSBSWE and BHEC's) decision, but I think it's important to understand why it happened.
First, some background:
On Friday, October 9th, 2020, a last-minute change to the Texas social work code of conduct was suggested by Governor Greg Abbott’s office. You can read more about this change here. It suggested removing language protecting LGBTQIA and disabled populations from discrimination.
On Tuesday, October 13th, 2020 (2 business days later), TSBSWE and BHEC board members unanimously approved these changes without question or discussion. Public comment was not offered, and Texas social workers at-large were not consulted on these changes. You can watch the board meeting here: https://lnkd.in/eXSZf7E (the decision I am talking about takes place at roughly 26 minutes in).
Will Francis, Executive Director of NASW TX, along with sadly few others, decried the removal of these protections during the public comment part of this meeting, which occurred after the change had been approved by the board.
The reason these protections were repealed is that it’s apparently not okay for our code of conduct to be “broader” in its scope of protections than the social work occupational code, which you can find here: https://lnkd.in/eFKd7WG (Section 505.451 covers discrimination).
Unpacking what happened
Despite understanding the logistical and legal reasons for this change, what I don’t understand is why these leaders of our professional governing organizations did not encourage social workers to speak out about this during the meeting. Nor did they openly explain the reason for allowing these protections to be repealed.
This is so troubling, particularly in a year like 2020 has been, in which fighting for social justice and equity has been at the forefront of our minds and public discourse more than ever before.
It is also worth noting that our code of conduct has not aligned with the occupational code for 10 years, which is when these protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, and disability were originally put in place. Why is it suddenly a priority to make them match?
Regardless of it being a 'best practice' for the code of conduct to match the occupational code, repealing discrimination protections from already marginalized populations who are more likely to need social work interventions is unconscionable and regressive. It is disturbing that this was not discussed by board members.
What can you do? Wehther you are a social worker, mental health professional, client, or ally for LGBTQIA people or those with disabilities, there's actually a lot you can do to help!
NASW TX's recent advocacy alerts recommend that we reach out to our representatives to request that this repealing of protections be put on hold by Governor Greg Abbott until public comment can be taken into account.
In addition, we should request that BHEC mandate protections for individuals based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability for all the licensing bodies it oversees.
You can also sign the NASW Texas petition here: https://www.change.org/p/texas-governor-oppose-changes-to-the-code-of-conduct-for-social-workers-in-texas
Lastly, keep an eye on NASW Texas' website and social media. They will be announcing furhter calls to action, including the ability to sign up to speak at the next BHEC/TSBSWE board meeting on October 27th (clear your schedule to speak if you can!)
Please consider acting in protection of our LGBTQIA and disabled friends and clients who deserve a right to uninterrupted mental health care and social work interventions without fear of discrimination.