Musings from Social Justice Leaders in School Psychology - Part I

By Cooper, Jennifer M. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, October 2016 | Go to article overview

Musings from Social Justice Leaders in School Psychology - Part I


Cooper, Jennifer M., National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


The following are excerpts of interviews from social justice leaders in the field of school psychology who were interviewed as part of a two-part series conducted by NASP's Social Justice Interest Group (SJIG) as a way of raising awareness and unpacking what social justice means in our professional practice. Members of the SJIG Advisory Board were e-mailed guiding questions and asked to share their experiences, insights, and musings on social justice as part of a conversation to be shared with the SJIG community. It was later decided to share these conversations more broadly with all NASP members, and we invite you to read and share your thoughts, reactions, and feedback on our SJIG community on the NASP website.

In Part 1 of this feature, we explore how school psychologists can become involved in social justice work and identified important skills, resources, and recommendations for applied practice. We hope you find this information valuable to your training, research, and practice as you work to promote social justice and embrace the role of school psychologists as social justice change agents.

Jennifer Cooper: If you had to name one skill that is important for social justice advocacy what would it be and why?

Brianna Sarr-Kerman: Patience! Few professionals are well versed in the topic of social justice, and they are not familiar with evaluating individual or systemic concerns through this lens. In my experience, you will encounter many people who want to do the right thing, but far fewer who are willing and able to examine their own personal practices for injustice and thoughtfully revise accordingly. I find it very helpful to take a baby steps approach in helping to slowly identify injustices and help scaffold discussions toward improvement as the opportunities arise during programming decisions, instructional decisions, and so forth. I find that most people want to be just, but often lack understanding of how little things they say and do can counter that perspective; they also need guidance on how to improve (assuming they are willing).

Christina Mulé: It's difficult to name just one skill that is important to be a social justice advocate, but I can narrow it down to two. First, it seems necessary for an advocate to possess awareness of social injustices. Second, it is essential that advocates are empowered to make change. It is possible to possess awareness but at the same time feel disempowered. Unfortunately, this is where I think many people find themselves. Often issues of socialjustice feel too big, leaving people feeling like they can't possibly do anything about them.

Nathaniel von der Embse: Willingness to act. Many [school psychologists] go into the field as child advocates, but may get into a routine or become comfortable in their practice(s). [Social justice] advocates go outside their comfort zones and are willing to lead change.

Alissa Briggs: The ability to build relationships with others: Without allies we cannot advocate.

David shriberg: Listening. Effective advocates listen closely to what everyone has to say and then find ways to work with others to identify and fight for approaches most likely to promote fairness and justice.

What are some ways that school psychologists can get involved in social justice work in their schools?

Von der embse: Become a part of a broader [social justice] community. Social justice work can be intimidating for new school psychologists. Join with fellow advocates to discuss strategies to advance [social justice] practice.

Briggs: The school psychologist should get involved on teams or committees that are seeking to improve school systems. The school psychologist can work with these teams or committees to implement interventions within a three-tiered model that promotes equity and well-being. They can build school-community collaborations. They can help implement restorative justice. They can strive to be culturally competent. …

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