Exploring the Profile of Social Justice Leaders in Rural Southwest Texas School Settings
American schools have experienced rapid demographic shifts which have altered the cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic makeup of school populations. Today school leaders face new contextual changes where the increasing diversity of the school community becomes more complex. New threats to social justice have emerged as a result of this growing diversity, and historical issues of inequality continue to impede student learning, participation and development (Chiu and Walker, 2007). In the midst of this demographic revolution, many school leaders in these rapidly transitioning schools make efforts to implement different leadership practices to address social justice issues. The literature on leadership preparation programs is minimal in regards to providing methods to practice social justice leadership in K-12 schools. Shields (2004) described educational leadership as being in crisis due to the lack of qualified candidates or because of naive, conservative, and traditional leadership responses to increasingly complex, challenging, and postmodern educational contexts. In this age of demographic change and accountability it is imperative that school leaders analyze practices, policies, and views that may hinder marginalized groups of students from achieving a higher level of success in the classroom (Bryant, 2016). As a result, there is a need to create constructive models of social justice leadership and build networking communities of social justice leaders who are implementing this practice. As such, educational leadership preparation programs need the integration of the social justice leadership component to prepare aspiring principals for the challenging task of providing an equitable and high-quality education to all students. The purpose of this study is to explore the characteristics of a school leader that promotes social justice and equity in rural school settings. To achieve this purpose, the following research question guided this study, How do lived experiences of social justice leaders transfer to their practices? This research identifies principals who are more than figureheads or managers of their schools and who are distinct from other school leaders. The principals in this study demonstrate social justice leadership practices and the alternatives they use to achieve socially just educational outcomes for all stakeholders. I analyzed the school leaders in this study by using a qualitative case study approach.