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Building an Ethical School

When reflecting on what I have read in the book Building an Ethical School by Robert J. Starratt, and the information obtained from my current Ethics and Social Responsibilities class, I feel I have an abundance of valuable information that will guide me in creating an ethical school environment when I am a school leader.

When I think of an ethical school, I envision a school where all members of the school make decisions based on what is right and good. I read once in an article that real leaders concentrate on doing the right thing, not on doing things right. I believe this. If a leader comes to a decision doing the “right” thing, they are also usually doing things right. Having a responsibility to everyone involved in the school community, it is often not clear what is right or wrong or which perspective is right. This is the struggle that school leaders encounter on a daily basis.

As the leader of a school, it will be my responsibility to ensure that all students have the opportunity for a quality education in a safe learning environment. In meeting this responsibility, I feel that it is imperative to not only be concerned with the academics of a school, but to also focus on the creation or sustaining of a school that is ethical. When talking about being the leader of an ethical school, I am talking about being the leader of a school where the administration, teaching staff, clerical & custodial staff, students and parents engage in ethical behavior on a consistent base. Their ethics should be the principles that guide them in making the right or proper decisions.

In the creating of an ethical school, it is the responsibility of the principal to be the focal point of ethical decision making. If the principal acts in an ethical manner there will most likely be a “trickle down effect” causing those under him/her to also act ethically. The principal must ensure that his/her assistant principals are acting ethically and that they are ensuring that the teaching staff is acting ethically. The teaching staff must make sure to act ethically toward their students and in return that the students are acting ethically.

When all the leaders of a school act ethically, it will facilitate the students acting ethically. “When youngsters encounter various teachers throughout the school day who model ethical values, when ethical concerns are discussed in various subjects across the curriculum, when multiple opportunities are present to practice the ethic of caring, the ethic of justice and the ethic of critique, when guidance counselors, coaches and moderators of student activities all consistently speak about ethical concerns, when the school corridors are hung with posters which reflect ethical values of self-respect, loyalty and honesty, and when the school and the home express consistent concern over ethical issues, the message is pretty hard to ignore.” ( Starrat )

In my opinion there are several attributes that a school leader must possess in order to run an ethical school. They should be honest, respectful and fair. If a principal makes his/her decision based on these three qualities, and demands that the entire school body also possesses these qualities, there will be a great foundation to an ethical school.

Before writing this paper, I took an Ethical Orientation self-test. The perspective presented in the self-test was based on material from the course as it related to standard five of the ISLLC (Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium) standards. Standard five reads: Acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner. The purpose of the self-test was to provide me with an assessment of my understanding of ethical principles as they relate to my professional actions. After taking the self-test I was more aware of areas that I would need to concentrate on or work more on when becoming a principal, if I wanted to truly establish an ethical school. The self-test was a tool to guide me in being a more ethical leader. There were several statements that I responded with an answer of “1” or at least I wanted to answer “1” but was actually too embarrassed to write down the number one.

One of the statements read: “I attempt to live my private life in unison with my professional responsibilities so that people consider me an ethical person.” I answered “1” to that statement which meant that my actions never agree with that statement. To me, my opinion was that my profession and personal life are completely separate and should not intertwine. Therefore, there was no need to live my life in unison with my professional responsibilities so people would think I was an ethical person. In reality, my profession is a large part of who I am and as an educational leader I definitely want to be an ethical leader.

In conclusion, I should always or frequently attempt to live my life in unison with my professional responsibilities because in actuality my profession and my personal life are intertwined. I also discovered from the self-test that I need to me more aware of the importance of parents and local community members and the positive contributions they may be able to make when setting up an ethical school. There were many ethical principles that I was very aware of and my actions always complied with.

If I was a new principal and I was creating a school setting that was ethical, the first thing I would do is obtain the Code of Ethics for educators and the Student Code of Conduct. I would review them very carefully making sure I was fully aware of all information. One of the summer meetings that I would have with my assistant principals would be exclusively on the Code of Ethics for educators and the Student Code of conduct. During this meeting I would distribute both documents to them explaining my intentions of running an ethical school. I would explain to them that I would expect them to follow the Educators Code of Ethics. I would make them aware of their importance in accomplishing this difficult endeavor, and explain to them my beliefs about being honest, respectful and fair.

The assistant principals would be responsible for distributing the Student Code of Conduct to each student that they were responsible for. Each assistant principal would conduct a meeting with their students, reviewing the Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct would have to be brought home and reviewed, being signed by the student and the parent/guardian. The purpose for distributing the Student Code of conduct to all students, which had also has to be signed by parents, is to provide the student and parent of the expectations of their behavior and the possibly consequences of misconduct.

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