Social justice educational leaders and resistance: Toward a theory of social justice leadership

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579 Scopus citations


Purpose : A subgroup of principalsleaders for social justiceguide their schools to transform the culture, curriculum, pedagogical practices, atmosphere, and schoolwide priorities to benefit marginalized students. The purpose of the article is to develop a theory of this social justice educational leadership. Research Design: This empirical study examined the following questions: (a) In what ways are principals enacting social justice in public schools? (b) What resistance do social justicedriven principals face in their justice work? (c) What strategies do principals develop to sustain their ability to enact social justice in light of the resistance they face in public schools? Data Collection and Analysis: A critical, qualitative, positioned-subject approach combined with principles of autoethnography guided the research methods. Seven public school leaders who came to the principalship with a social justice orientation, who make issues of race, class, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and other historically marginalizing factors central to their advocacy, leadership practice, and vision, and who have demonstrated success in making their schools more just, were studied through interviews. Findings: A description of (a) how the principals enacted social justice, (b) the resistance they faced as well as the toll the resistance had on them, and (c) the strategies they developed to sustain their social justice work is provided in detail. Implications for administrator preparation are made at the close of this article.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-258
Number of pages38
JournalEducational Administration Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • Equity
  • Leadership
  • Principals
  • Resistance
  • Social justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Administration


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