Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Bethany D. Peters

Second Advisor

Dr. Debra J. Dean

Third Advisor

Dr. Amy Bratten


The purpose of this exploratory mixed-methods phenomenological study was to understand the perceptions of school building leaders (SBLs), also referred to as principals, regarding their facilitation of social justice leadership (SJL) and culturally responsive school leadership (CRSL) practices to support student inclusion and belongingness within the K-12 educational setting in NYS. This research study fills the knowledge gap related to student belongingness through the principal's perspective and illuminates how SBLs support inclusion. First, nine high-need rural school principals participated in semi-structured interviews, and second, 101 SBLs from across NYS completed a survey using the Social Justice Behavior Scale (SJBS). Findings and results of this study include affirmation that SBLs equally apply CRSL to facilitate SJL, SBLs focus more attention on the personal and interpersonal dimensions of the SJL framework to accelerate SJL, and confirmation the need resource category (N/RC) of the school building in which the school principal serves have no impact on the responses obtained on SJBS. Implications of this study include insights into professional development and leader preparation program needs, self-reflection and self-awareness, and communal, systemic, and ecological change. The school building’s N/RC is independent of how a SBL implements, facilitates, or supports SJL in the school building. In practical terms, evidence from this study underscores the importance of allocating time and resources to nurture the growth and development of SJL and CRSL practices by SBLs as a priority function when implementing DEI and student belongingness initiatives.