Ethics and the elementary principal

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

Daily decision-making experiences of the elementary principal are handled differently and test ethical standards. The manner in which these situations are handled affect the efficiency and credibility of the position and may ultimately affect the school program. What are some of the ethical dilemmas facing elementary principals in the course of their duties? What do these administrators perceive to be the decisions of their colleagues in given ethical situations? What do these same administrators perceive to be the most ethical decision? By first discovering and then comparing the responses of various elementary school principals, a general picture of the predispositions of the participants may be formulated. These results may then be used to heighten the awareness of ethical aspects housed in daily situations encountered on the job. This is a descriptive study of the predispositions of elementary principals in Virginia with respect to ethics.

A cadre of ethical dilemmas were written using personal experiences, conversations with professionals in the field, and adaptations of scenarios from other studies. The scenarios were field tested to determine clarity of the ethical situations, the choice responses, and the survey directions.

A random sample of elementary principals was selected using The Virginia Educational Directory (1992). Using suggestions from Mail and Telephone Surveys by Dillman, a mail survey was used to collect data from three hundred elementary principals. Survey responses were tabulated to compare the differences between what elementary principals perceived to be the most used and the most ethical decision for problem situation.

In analyzing the results (1.) in some cases, there was an inverse relationship between what principals perceived to be the action taken by most principals in problem situations and the action perceived to be the most ethical, (2.) some administrators might have been influenced by factors other than their own ethical beliefs when making decisions, (3.) with two exceptions, there was little agreement on what was deemed to be the one best ethical action in the situations presented, and (4.) when facing a decision with potential personal consequences some administrators made choices on factors other than ethics.