Learning Leadership: Ethical dilemmas – Daniel case study

I'm Harriet the principle of heavenly state college this is my dilemma Harriet I just had four more enrollment interviews with new families they were really impressed by our strict drug policy with immediate exclusion news seems to be getting around about those two students we excluded earlier on in the year wasn't so good at the time but it seems to be bringing some really great families to the door great oh hi Daniel and we may need to catch up with you – it's nothing bad I just wanted to congratulate you on the really great comments I've been getting from your teachers such a great improvement since the start of the year when there are a few complaints funny you really lifted the game good on you Thanks how's your mum I'm just seeing a lot of doctors but she was getting better and she just wants to get back to work okay well please give her my best yeah will do all right so have you thought about what you're going to do next year it's the end of you twelve only a few weeks away yeah so my boss suggested a TAFE course that um he said might be really good for me so he said I could also continue working for him while I studied so I might do that oh that's a fantastic idea I'm so great to see that you're getting your life together thank you and you're a really good role model for younger brother Thanks well done Daniel Harriet there's been an incident involving Daniel but the incident report here you got time to see him now yep come in Daniel Daniel at the school formal last night you are found with a small amount of marijuana it's two weeks before your final exams if I exclude you now you're not going to get your year 12 you won't get your TAFE place and you might even lose your part-time job what am I going to do with you Harriet thanks for giving me a call we've been friends for a long time and we've helped each other through some tough calls what's the problem now okay I don't know what to do about Daniel so he's breached the school's policy on drug use I worked really hard in the school to raise expectations to make it a safe place for students earlier this year I actually excluded two students and you know I got a lot of support from the parents with my actions but now I'm worried that excluding Daniel will have consequences for his future life for his mum please younger brother Daniels come a long way and if I take away his chance to graduate and get into a course then that that will provide him with a steady income and his family some security then I'm failing him what should I do what you know what I can hear that you are actually in the middle of a big ethical dilemma I can see that you're really upset and concerned and this is one of those times when you know that University Theory won't pass to help you I actually bought along a paper to share with you that has this model that maybe we can walk it through how did that sound that sounds great okay you've identified the dilemma is whether you exclude Daniel or not let's talk through some of those competing values and using these post-it notes to represent some of the different dimensions well I know you've got a professional code of ethics that you have had to sign up to to work in this system you've also got your own code of ethics where I know you want the best for your students another associated one is you're the legal requirements you've got legislation telling you you've got a duty of care to report some issues and drug-taking is one of those you've also got a duty of care to the rest of your students there's the whole organizational culture that you've been building up within your school and I know you've worked really hard about that you're wanting to be supportive and really support both your students and your staff but you've got a history of being tough on drugs and trying to really build out the expectation of zero tolerance then there's this whole idea of the what's in the public interest you've got a community expectation and you know from all those PNC meetings and talking with members of the public they like you being tough on drugs they don't want the neighbourhood being like it was 20 years ago but you've also got an vested interest as an educator to challenge some of the low expectations that are coming out of a low socio-economic population your school is serving and you know we all know that you know the importance of the global context we some of our parents would say that drug taking isn't abnormal that level of drug taking might be normal and you also know that there's a social media background to this you've got to be aware of and a desire for people to be aware of what's happening and be informed of your decision all of these are those competing values but what's really important is how you negotiate those your own set of values become very important well your values and your beliefs which ones are coming to the fore most and that's going to lead you towards your choices so you might take action at an internal level you might take action at an external level your action might be informal or it could be formal or even you might decide to ignore the situation these are where you have some choices and it's worth mapping it out so you can think your way through no wonder I've been feeling so confused so your values are really important in helping you start to sort out your choices so as you think through what some choices might be it's often helpful to talk to somebody a significant other and ask what would my mother or my partner think if I made these kinds of choices okay so here are my choices I could take formal action to exclude Daniel from school I could report his use of illicit drugs to the police I could suspend Daniel from school but allowing to take his final exams in a separate supervised facility I could refer this incident to our code of conduct committee where he's given an advocate and they're our staff and parent elected representatives I could keep it informal and warn Daniel give him detention not formally record the incident I could ignore it and say that it didn't happen on school property and therefore it's not my problem to deal with each of these has implications for Daniel for his family for the reputation of the school and my own reputation as a school leader I also need to remember that I'm setting a precedent for the next time something like this happens I want to spend some time writing out some possible positive and negative consequences of each choice that might help me rationalize a clearer acceptable response to the student the staff the school community and parents the wider community to myself what would you do ethical dilemmas are complex and challenging they're fundamentally about relationships and how we should behave for Harriet using a model like that help make some of those competing values really clear and she's going to find that some of her values will have priority in this case and other values may be silenced but it may help her explain her decisions to others because we expect leaders to be accountable and ethical as a leader you can learn from Harriet's case and you can also use this framework to think through your own dilemmas we really like to thank professor Neal Cranston professor Lisa Eric and dr. Megan Kimber for their use of this case study and you can read more of their work at the links associated with this video we look forward to hearing what you've made from this idea

4 thoughts on “Learning Leadership: Ethical dilemmas – Daniel case study

  1. Great clip. Choices not easy here. Students need a chance to complete studies, yet still be appropriately disciplined.

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