Musings from Social Justice Leaders in School Psychology - Part II

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

Musings from Social Justice Leaders in School Psychology - Part II


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 explored how school psychologists can become involved in social justice work and identified important skills, resources, and recommendations for applied practice. For the current article, we queried panelists about events that inspired them to become social justice advocates, challenges they have experienced, strategies they used to overcome barriers, and critical social justice issues in today's schools. 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: What led to your interest in social justice and what motivates you to continue as a social justice advocate in the face of adversity?

Christina Mulé: Since as far back as I can remember I have been concerned with issues of equity and oppression. When I was in kindergarten I remember taking money from my parents' coin jar to give to economically disadvantaged children in my school. I credit my parents for raising me to be aware of differences, but to have the heart and courage to attempt change. My motivation to continue as a social justice advocate is quite simple, actually: I just believe that we all can make a better tomorrow.

David Shriberg: I grew up as the child of 1960s activists so I had this understanding drilled into me by my parents that it is important to do our best to make the world a better place, even if there are obstacles in our way. I have had a very privileged life experience as a white male who has never known poverty, so I have not had significant adversity to overcome compared to the vast majority of the human race. Professionally, both in practice and as a professor, I have seen those who question the legitimacy of social justice advocacy. The challenges have come from within and outside of school psychology. I think the main thing I have learned is not to take this personally, even though at times these challenges are expressed in a nasty way.

Fortunately, it is not difficult to stay motivated to try and be an effective social justice advocate. While there are some who will say that they are "colorblind" and would otherwise deny that injustices occur, for the most part I think people are aware that oppression exists. The challenge is to help people to not give in to despair or passivity and find ways to maximize our role as school psychologists to be constructive irritants against injustice, to see it as our role to speak up. I see all the injustices in the United States and in the world and I get angry-and then I want to do something to make things better. That's what keeps me motivated.

Brianna sarr-Kerman: My original work started at the time that the SJIG at NASP was just beginning. I went to the NASP convention that year and joined the group, and those discussions were invigorating to me, giving me a framework to help evaluate practices that just didn't feel right to me. Whether I am advocating for a child whose parents do not have the resources to give the child everything they want to, or for a child whose parents want more support than they truly need, I find myself in situations daily which require my advocacy to ensure that the child's needs are at the forefront of the decision making. …

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