Social Justice in School Psychology: Moving Forward

Article excerpt

The topic of social justice is not new to dialogue and research within disciplines that serve children, such as education (Shoho, Merhcant & Lugg, 2007) and psychology (Fouad, Gerstein, & Toporek, 2006). The commitment to social justice within the fields of education and psychology is evidenced by the attention that their organizations - the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) - pay social justice via mission statements and guidelines (Shriberg & Penning, 2009) . However, the field at large only recently addressed social justice in a more formal and explicit way. One of the first steps that school psychology took was the formation of a social justice interest group within the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) in 2007 (Sarr, Nelson, & Von Der Embse, 2007).

When the NASP Social Justice Interest Group was formed, there was a dearth of literature in the field of schoolpsychology that directly mentioned social justice. Since then, members of this interest group, among others, have addressed social justice in the field of school psychology in a wide variety of ways. For example, a module on teachingfor social justice in school psychology graduate programs has been developed by interest group members Chieh Li, Christina Mulé, Kathleen Lippus, Kimberly Santona, Bethany Smith, Gina Cicala, and Jessica Cataldo of Northeastern University (this module canbefound at In addition, the social justice interest group recently conducted a national survey of NASP members' strategies for defining and applying social justice in school psychology and has organized to provide input on the pending 2010 NASP Standards.

Along with this activity, the literature related to topics of social justice in the field of school psychology has exploded. For example, the most recent issue of the Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation contained six articles considering the connection between school consultation and social justice (Shriberg & Penning, 2009) as part of a special issue. School Psychology Review published a special topic, "Promoting Social Justice" (Power, 2008), which contained five articles in its December 2008 issue. Also in December 2008, COMMUNIQUÉ published an article relatingto promoting social justice in school psychology (Briggs, Sarr, & Shriberg, 2008). In addition, a future issue of Trainer's Forum will contain articles discussing teaching for social justice in school psychology graduate programs (Briggs, Bartucci, Kowalewicz, McArdle, & Shriberg, in press; Li et al., in press; Radliff, Miranda, Stoll, & Wheeler, in press; Shriberg, in press) . Finally, a book published by NASP in February 2009 - The Psychology of Multiculturalism in the Schools: A Primer for Practice, Training, andResearch (Jones, 2009) - contains a chapter on school mental health and social justice (Shriberg, 2009).

Thus, 2 years after the formation of the NASP Social Justice Interest Group and with 16 articles, one book chapter, and three theme journal issues directly addressing the topic in the field, where are we in our understanding of social justice as it relates to school psychology? Why are we discussing the relationship between social justice and school psychology? And, what does it mean?


The recent activity surrounding social justice in the school psychology literature and within the social justice interest group suggests that we are achieving one important step: creating a dialogue regarding the meaning of social justice in theory and practice as it relates to school psychology. This public dialogue is essential as it has the potential to help define social justice as it applies to school psychology and provide insight into what social justice looks like in school psychology training, research, and practice. Components of the definition of social justice discussed by many recent authors include treating individuals and groups with fairness and respect as well as ensuring that resources are distributed equitably (Li & Vázquez- Nuttall, 2009; Shriberg & Penning, 2009; Speight & Vera, 2009; Shriberg et al. …


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