Beyond legalities: an inquiry into the ethical dimension of principals' decision-making for special education
Skelton, Christy L.
AdvisorPatterson, Jean A.
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Given the evolution of the principal's role and the current accountability system, principals are expected act in primary oversight of programming for student with disabilities. However, such expectations assume principals possess the core skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary when navigating complex decision-making for students with disabilities. To meet the demands of a complex leadership role, principals must not only attend to the legal context, but are responsible to act as moral agents, providing the ethical leadership necessary to support the formation of an ethical school setting for all students. This qualitative study, conducted in two member districts of a special education Interlocal located in Kansas, sought to explore how seven principals navigated the ethical dilemmas associated with special education that exist beyond the legal context. Through the perspectives of consequentialism, deontology, virtue ethics (Northouse, 2015), and care ethics (Held, 2006; Noddings, 2013), principals' moral and political stories with regard to their leadership for special education were examined. With particular attention to participants' description of their aims, actions, and motivation in association with their leadership for special education, a primary perspective with heavy emphasis on respect, care, nurturing, and relationship emerged. Highlighted were participants' primary process of cultivating a climate where all people matter, a focus on people first, a moral commitment to look beyond the rules, rigor, and regulation, and a primary motivation to cultivate support and promote unity though shared leadership. A final, yet important conclusion highlighted principals' acute awareness of the rhetoric and the realities, and their concerns regarding diminished opportunity to fully advance their leadership for all from a care perspective.
Thesis (Ed.D.)-- Wichita State University, College of Education, Dept. of Counseling, Educational Leadership, Education and School Psychology