Advancing Social Justice through Primary Prevention

Article excerpt

A commitment to social justice is integral to being an effective schoolpsychologist. While social justice is a term that is not easily defined, professionals in school psychology have characterized it as the idea that all students are entitled to be treated with fairness and respect (North, 2006; Shriberg, et al, 2008). Though individual conceptions of social justice may vary, a recent study revealed a preference for a definition that highlights equal protection of rights and opportunities for all students (Shriberg et al).

Social inequities permeate our nation's schools; therefore, school psychologists should be encouraged to respond as advocates. This is a familiar mission of school psychologists, but less is known about exactly how to advocate for social justice within the schools (Rogers & O'Bryon, 2008). One way that school psychologists can aspire toward a commitment to social justice is by implementing school-wide primary preventions that support all children.

Inspired by the mission of the NASP Social Justice Interest Group, faculty and students at Northeastern University beganto infuse social justice inthe school psychology program's curriculum. A social justice group consisting of school psychology faculty and students was formed to facilitate learning about social justice concerns within the schools. As a product of this group's work, the focus of the current paper is to provide useful information for practicing school psychologists by highlighting specific research-based primary prevention approaches for several groups who face social injustice. It is crucial to employ strategies that are culturally sensitive and appropriately recognize students' physical and mental health needs. Moreover, schoolpsychologists must advocate for social justice at every level, specifically in children's home, school, and community environments (Li & Vazquez-Nuttall, 2009).

This paper will review primary prevention approaches that are culturally sensitive and geared toward all aspects of the children's environment. Specifically, it will explore research-based primary prevention strategies for groups facing the following issues: (a) human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), (b) gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) harassment, (c) homelessness, and (d) online social aggression. Finally, a discussion will address how school psychologists can meet the needs of all students in their school and home communities.

PRIMARY PREVENTION FOR HIV POSITIVE STUDENTS

Despite the myth that HIV is a disease that only infects homosexual males and intravenous drugusers, it hasbecomea medical, psychoeducational, and psychosocial concern among school-age children and adolescents (Chenneville, 2007; Wodrich, Swerdlik, Chenneville, & Landau, 1999) . Consequently, school psychologists must be knowledgeable and prepared to serve this unique group. Primary prevention techniques supported inthe literature include policyformation,developmentally appropriate education, sexual education, and staff training (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2004; Chenneville; National Association of State Boards of Education [NASBE], 2001; Walsh & Bibace, 1990; Wodrich et al.).

Policy Formation. Policy formation under primary prevention will likely preclude any controversial arguments or debates within a community and school system; consequently, NASBE (2001) encourages every state and school district to engage in policy formation to address the serious issues raised by HIV infection. In doing so, NASBE (2001) suggests that local education agencies actively communicate and engage in dialogue with their communities about HIV-related school policies and procedures, in an effort to ensure that they coincide with community values. Nonetheless, NASBE (2001) explicitly warns that policy makers and educators should not feel that their roles are complete with the establishment of policy, as new challenges will likely emerge. …