In times of transformation, the issues of equity, social justice and social change require careful review in educational institutions. Effective educational leaders need a firm understanding of ethics in addition to technical and administrative skills (Starratt, 2004). Personal values, including religious reasoning, may lead to decisions that cause conflict and are not in the best interests of all stakeholders. Clearly stated guidelines and a code of ethics that all stakeholders help to create can enhance the ethical decision-making process (Gordon & Sork, 2001). Teachers may be willing to follow guidelines if school leaders consult with teachers in the creation of a code of ethics. Educational leaders and teachers are role models for students and need to make decisions based on caring for the needs of all students (Gorman & Pauken, 2003). Moral reasoning alone is not sufficient for the decisions that educational leaders make in diverse communities. Three general approaches to ethical decision making are available to educational leaders. Deontology is a rule-based system of ethics that emphasizes the importance of duty and of respecting rules for moral conduct, regardless of the consequences (Beckner, 2004). A rule-based approach to ethics may help to create consistent guidelines for school leaders and administrators but might not be useful in unusual or complex circumstances. Consequentialism is an approach to ethical decisions that focuses on creating the maximum benefit for the largest number of individuals. Mixed-consequentialism provides a useful framework for educational leaders in increasingly complex and diverse communities and educational environments.
Nathaniel Edwards, Yamaguchi University, Japan