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.

Bob Denham, Ph.D.


social justice, decision-making, value-praxis, heuristics, ethics, administrator, superintendent, sexting


Educational Leadership


This study focused on the perceived ethics of the decisions superintendents make in response to a situation with a teacher that was value-laden, potentially volatile, and potentially affected by the teachers' gender or ethnicity. Superintendents (N = 123) each read one of 12 versions of a vignette depicting a sexting incident between a student and a teacher and were asked to use the Multidimensional Ethics Scale (McMahon & Harvey, 2007) to rate how ethical they found the administrative response to the situation to be. All versions of the vignette were the same except that (a) the described administrative response was either more lenient or more harsh and the teacher who had engaged in the sexting behavior was depicted as (b) either male or female, and as (c) either African-American, Latino, or White, non-Hispanic. Participants also took two personality measures (conscientiousness; openness to experience). However, neither personality scale predicted superintendents' response to the vignette. Nor did the gender or ethnicity of the teacher depicted in the vignette. However, there was a very large main effect for severity of the sanction given the teacher, with the more severe sanction being rated as the more ethical (Cohen's d = 1.70). When asked to describe in an open-ended question what response they would make to this situation, the two most frequent responses were to contact human resources (39%) and to investigate further (35%); a smaller proportion indicated that they would contact law enforcement (11%). Implications of these findings are discussed.


© 2012 Michael W. Adams

All Rights Reserved

ISBN: 9781267855060