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JSL Vol 22-N2

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The Journal of School Leadership is broadening the conversation about schools and leadership and is currently accepting manuscripts. We welcome manuscripts based on cutting-edge research from a wide variety of theoretical perspectives and methodological orientations. The editorial team is particularly interested in working with international authors, authors from traditionally marginalized populations, and in work that is relevant to practitioners around the world. Growing numbers of educators and professors look to the six bimonthly issues to: deal with problems directly related to contemporary school leadership practice teach courses on school leadership and policy use as a quality reference in writing articles about school leadership and improvement.

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7 Articles

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Introduction: Constructing a Bridge Between Law and Social Justice—An Ethical Journey

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Through their rulings, courts determine what school administrators cannot do—for example, punish students without some form of due process (see Goss v. Lopez, 1975)—and what they may do—such as regulate student speech (see, e.g., Bethel School District v. Fraser, 1986; Morse v. Frederick, 2007). However, these decisions do not encompass all possible circumstances or fact patterns. Indeed, the courts are reluctant to stipulate particular actions or procedures for school officials to follow. Furthermore, decisions based on sound legal reasoning are value laden and can have unintended consequences, such as reproducing inequities in society (Conley & O’Barr, 1998; Kairys, 1982; Kelman, 1987; Ward, 2002). Thus, school leaders find themselves having to fit rulings and laws into real-time situations in contexts that are at once similar and different from those on which legal rulings were made. Additionally, by merely obeying the law, school leaders can as easily foster social injustice and social justice.

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Gauging Ethical Deficits in Leadership and Student Discipline: An Analysis of Fourth Amendment Case Law

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MARIO S. TORRES, JR.

ABSTRACT: Recent studies of school discipline (Skiba, Michael, Nardo, & Peterson, 2002; see also, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, n.d.) have called for greater scrutiny over treatment of students in varying demographic contexts. Minimal research, however, has grappled with the ethics of disciplinary practices using legal data. Utilizing information collected from Fourth Amendment case law since the landmark New Jersey v. T.L.O. decision (1985), this study examined the ethical dimensions of student searches through the ethical lenses of justice, caring, critique, and the profession. A multiple logistic regression was employed to gauge the impact of demographic factors on aspects relative to the search including the type of search (e.g., locker), number of search actions (e.g., the extensiveness of the search), and whether the evidence recovered in the search was reported to the police. Findings suggest the application of searches is strongly influenced by school size, school minority population, and poverty level, whereas the likelihood evidence recovered during a search is handed to police for criminal prosecution is greater in larger schools and schools situated in high minority communities. The findings together allude to ethical lapses among school personnel in the realms of caring, critique, and the profession. Implications for ethical leadership are addressed.

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Examining the Crossroads of Law, Ethics, and Education Leadership

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SUSAN C. BON

ABSTRACT: Educational leaders are bound by legal and ethical imperatives to make certain that all children have access to an education and the opportunity to learn. To better understand how law and ethics intersect, this article adopted the cultural study perspective to analyze U.S. Supreme Court opinions for language revealing the intersection of law and ethics. The Supreme Court has contributed to the realization of educational goals, relying on the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause to ensure that equal educational opportunities are not deprived because of a child’s race (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954) or illegal immigration status (Plyler v. Doe, 1982). Through the cultural study of law and exploration of legal discourse—language, symbols, and content—in these landmark Supreme Court decisions, similar taxonomies and patterns of discussion emerged illustrating the intersection of law and ethics. These taxonomies were used as coding protocols and exploratory guides for the subsequent review of education leadership literature through the quantitative content analysis method. Based on this analysis, a proposal is made advocating a paradigm shift in the way that law and education scholars analyze, discuss, and critique the Supreme Court decisions affecting children’s educational rights. Specifically, this article proposes the adoption of an integrated legal and ethical paradigm to study the legal discourse in the Supreme Court’s education law decisions.

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Fraser and the Cheerleader: Values and the Boundaries of Student Speech

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PATRICIA A. L. EHRENSAL

ABSTRACT: Student speech has and continues to be a contested issue in schools. The Supreme Court ruled in Tinker that students do not shed their rights at the schoolhouse gate; in the Kuhlmeier and Fraser decisions, however, the Court gave school officials greater latitude in regulating student speech, especially when it bears the imprimatur of the school. However, in its Frederick decision, the Court established school officials as the arbiters of the meaning of student speech. This article explores the underlying values in schools that rejected the speech of Fraser while accepting the speech act of cheerleaders’ dance routines. It examines how the interpretation of these speech acts by school officials contributes to gender reproduction, with all the inequalities imposed.

Student “free speech” rights in public school settings have and continue to be a contested issue. In its landmark decision in Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that children do not shed their rights at the schoolhouse gate. However, in the Bethel School District v. Fraser (1986) and Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988) decisions, the Court gave school officials greater latitude in regulating student speech, especially when it bears the imprimatur of the school. Furthermore, in its more recent Morse v. Frederick (2007) decision, the Court established school officials as the arbiters of the meaning of student speech. Thus, in the school context, teachers and administrators (adults) interpret the speech of students (children) and, on the basis of that interpretation, determine if the speech is inappropriate (and therefore questioned) or appropriate (and therefore left unquestioned).

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Reflections on Justice in Schooling

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PATRICIA F. FIRST

ABSTRACT: This article is a reflection on the concept of justice as practiced in the public schools in the United States. Examples of justice denied or misconstrued are included. Cases, stories, and concepts invite educational leaders to reflect anew on delivering justice in education to all children. Underlying the article is the belief that understanding the concept of justice is vital if an educational leader is to act justly and model just behavior in schooling.

From crooks to kings, from politicians to philosophers, from writings of Plato to 20th- and 21st-century authors, people have reflected on the meaning of justice. This article is a reflection on justice in the public schools of the United States.

It posits that many of today’s educational leaders operate without a reflected-on and articulated concept of justice to guide their leadership and decision making. It further posits that achieving an understanding and acceptance of this concept by individual educational leaders and the educational leadership field may contribute to the application of the principles of justice in the creation and delivery of excellence in education for all children.

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“Are You Prepared to Defend the Decisions You’ve Made?” Reflective Equilibrium, Situational Appreciation, and the Legal and Moral Decisions of School Leaders

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PATRICK PAUKEN

ABSTRACT: This purpose of the study was to explore moral literacy and legal reasoning through educational leadership decision making. Participants in the study were students enrolled in a law and ethics course in an educational leadership graduate program. Each student drafted a personal code of ethics at the beginning of the course. Throughout the course, aspects of law, ethics, and leadership were examined from a problem-based, case study approach, offering students opportunities to examine school leadership decision making through legal and ethical lenses. At the end of the course, students wrote a reflection essay on the content studied, with a connection back to their personal codes and the relationship that those codes have to their legal knowledge, moral reasoning, and professional decision making in leadership. Respondents’ essays reflected each legal theme covered in the course, bringing ethical leadership to the study and practice of law. In addition, the essays illuminated ideas of reflective equilibrium and situational appreciation, both of which speak not only to the students’ personal codes of ethics but also to the approaches that the students bring to professional decision making. Educational leaders bring their personal ethics to the professional decisions they make and, as a result, to the defenses of those decisions. In the end, the questions asked and answered by the statutes, regulations, and cases covered in the course are not merely legal. They are also moral. And the issues raised speak not merely to legal compliance; they speak to leadership.

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Law, Ethics, and Social Justice: Commentary From the Bridge

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JACQUELINE A. STEFKOVICH

Providing commentary on this Journal of School Leadership’s special issue, “Constructing a Bridge Between Law and Social Justice: An Ethical Journey,” has been not only a daunting task because of the complex nature of this topic but also a humbling experience because of the superior quality of these articles. At the same time, it is most gratifying to see that the areas of social justice, law, and ethics have come so very far in gaining the scholarly recognition they have long deserved. Taken independently, these concepts and the research that accompanies them have contributed immensely to our field. Intertwined, as in this edition, they provide a powerful addition to our knowledge base and hold great promise for strengthening educational leadership practice as well as scholarly theory.

This commentary identifies common themes and patterns that emerge across the articles, as well as similarities and differences in the various authors’ approaches to these topics. These themes include the use of multiple methods of inquiry, a focus on law and social justice that emphasizes case law (court decisions), and, finally, an ethical analysis that ends with a call for school leaders to make ethical decisions in the spirit of the law and social justice.

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