Publication Date


DOI (Digital Object Identifier)



Leadership and Higher Education


Doctor of Education (Ed.D)

Dissertation Chair

Rodney Goodyear, Ph.D.

Committee Members

Ross Mitchell, Ph.D.

Robert Denham, Ph.D.


social justice, decision-making, heuristics, ethics, sexting, principals


Educational Leadership


Site level administrators make decisions during the course of a day that have ethical dimensions that challenge their personal values and ethics. This study examined the extent to which particular factors would affect principals' and vice principals' judgments of the ethicality of sanctions given a teacher who had been sending sexually explicit messages to a recent graduate (i.e., sexting). In an on-line survey, participants (N = 326) provided demographic information, completed a measure (Rammstadt & John, 2007) of the two personality traits of conscientiousness and openness to experience, and then read one of 12 versions of a vignette describing a sexting incident with a teacher. The essential elements of the vignette were the same across conditions, but varied by (a) offender gender, (b) offender race or ethnicity (African American, Hispanic, or White, non-Hispanic), and (c) the disposition of the situation (more lenient versus more strict sanction for the offender). Participants then rated the ethicality of the disposition using a measure by McMahon and Harvey (2007). Finally, they were asked to describe what action they would have taken in this circumstance.

Neither conscientiousness nor openness to experience predicted participant responses. They did, though, perceive the stricter disposition as more ethical. As well, there was a gender interaction so that the more severe disposition was rated as more ethical for a male offender. From the qualitative responses participants provided, it was clear that nearly two-thirds would have turned the situation over to the district office to handle. The implications of those findings are discussed and directions for future research are suggested.


© 2012 Kenneth Wagner

All Rights Reserved

ISBN: 9781267855107