Social Justice Action Strategies for School Psychologists: Three Perspectives

Article excerpt

As members of NASP' s new Social Justice Interest Group, we have grappled with ways to further a social justice perspective within school psychology. One challenge is definitional. While there are many different conceptualizations of social justice (North, 2006), we feel that the field of school psychology must define the concept as it applies to school psychology practice, research, and the preparation of future school psychologists. Moving toward a social justice framework by defining social justice is natural because social justice encompasses what we value as school psychologists. As school psychologists, we value supporting children academically, socially, and emotionally in a culturally competent manner. We find it to be our responsibility to advocate for children's rights, to support children's families in addressing challenging behavior and academic struggles, and to conduct research that helps us further understand how to support children, families, schools, and communities. Not only is moving toward a social justice framework natural, it is essential. Having an overarching framework for social justice will help us ensure that we do not undermine our efforts by divorcing our values. For example, if we work to support children academically, socially, and emotionally but fail to advocate for their rights under the law, we work against our own efforts at support.

However, within this piece, we do not wish to define social justice as it applies to school psychology, nor do we wish to define a social justice framework for practice, research, and graduate programs. Research and dialogue within the field of school psychology hold this responsibility. However, as NAS P' s Social Justice Interest Group has developed it has become apparent that there is a desire among many in the field for guidance related to specific strategies toward operationalizing social justice. In recognition of this desire, what follows are the ideas of three Social Justice Interest Group members - one a school psychology doctoral student (AB), one a practitioner (BJS), and one a professor (DS) - regarding possible social justice action strategies for school psychologists. All three authors have been actively involved in research involving defining and applying social justice through a school psychology lens (Shriberg, Bartucci, Briggs, Lombardo, & Wynne, 2008; Shriberg et al., in press) and these suggestions are based on this research as well as our respective social justice journeys.


Delve into knowledge. Graduate school provides the awesome opportunity to engage in a community of scholars and ravenously consume knowledge through coursework, readings, and current research. The school psychology student must take advantage of this opportunity and learn as much as s/he can absorb. To do otherwise would be a disservice to the children, families, and communities that the student hopes to serve.

Soaking up knowledge is imperative in building a strong foundation for practice. Without a strong foundation, a school psychologist may unwittingly transgress on the legal rights of a child and his or her parents. In addition, an uninformed school psychologist may unintentionally generate an inaccurate representation of child through test data, which will translate into decisions that fail to support the child's growth. Moreover, a school psychologist who lacks knowledge of how to use data and researchbased interventions effectively within a problem-solving model will likely fail to successfully find, choose, and implement academic and social-emotional interventions for struggling children. Thus, it is the responsibility of a school psychology student to learn as much as s/he can about education law, best practices, data-based decision making, culturally competent testing, and other topics deemed important in school psychology practice by the field and his or her graduate program. …


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