As a non-profit, research-focused organization, COR Foundation has reviewed the research on school shootings. Research from Psychologist Dewey Cornell, PhD has found three pathways to violence. 


Mental HEALTH (Psychotic)





Violence-prevention scholars argue many prevention programs are limited because they only address one problem (Hamby & Grych, 2013, Kidron & Osher, 2012). Addressing mental illness will reduce suffering but it will not increase empathy and character. Focusing solely on bullying-prevention may decrease harmful bullying behaviors, but it will not increase actively caring behavior (e.g., helping, supporting, looking out for others). Preventing fights and arguments between peers may reduce conflict, but it will not build connection. 

Each of these pathways can be addressed with a school-based program that promotes the positive. Our Actively Caring program empowers students to:

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Promote Mental HEALTH

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Promote Caring


Promote Connection 

Want to learn more about our work? Listen to how we can help prevent school shootings!

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Preventing Mental Illness

Interventions to support students with mental illness often focus on large-scale strategies, such as school-based partnerships with community organizations, to provide treatment in schools (Richardson & Morrissette, 2012).  Schools and communities need more support to provide mental health services in schools. In fact, the public education system is the largest provider of mental health services for youth.  However, only some students are receiving the treatment they need.

Preventing the onset of mental illness and treating mental illness is only one side of the coin. We must treat all individuals who are suffering with depression, anxiety, or delusions. But, we can be more proactive by focusing on the positive side of mental health – promoting mental health strengths .  


Promote Mental Health


Hope, gratitude, and social intelligence are a few of the 24 character strengths essential to develop in youth (see VIA).  The absence of mental illness is NOT the presence of psychological well-being. Building strengths and character are essential. 

Furlong et al. found students who self-report more strengths have:

  • higher life satisfaction
  • higher perceptions of school safety along
  • higher academic performance
  • lower rates of drug use
  • lower rates of bullying others (see research track at ).

Thus, youth programs should focus on the promotion of strengths.

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Prevent Bullying

Bullying-prevention programs have had a poor history of effectiveness, especially over the long term (Swearer et al., 2010). Current intervention programs to reduce bullying, many of which use top-down control and punitive consequences, are not meeting the needs of students in schools (Swearer et al., 2010). Even the “blue ribbon” Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) program has demonstrated mixed results when implemented in American schools (Bauer et al., 2007).

Promote Caring

Programming should target behavior that harms others (e.g., bullying) with a promotion-focused strategy of recognizing and rewarding positive (prosocial) behavior that benefits others (Colvin et al., 1999) in order to reduce risk factors (e.g., bullying) and promote strengths (e.g., prosocial development). McCarty (2016) assessed whether students perceive aggressing and helping actions as opposite types of interpersonal behavior; these data support the incompatibility principle (e.g., Colvin et al., 1999).

As a result, new programs should aim to reward helping behavior in order to reduce aggressive behavior.

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Prevent Social Isolation

In How Social Isolation Is Killing Us, Khullar discuss how chronic loneliness and social isolation lead to psychological problems. In fact, Matter asks the question: Is loneliness a health epidemic? 

We believe most teachers and educators would agree. Students are spending more and more time on social media, comparing themselves to others, and failing to connect in meaningful ways. 


Promote Connection

Connected (Fowler and Christakis) teach us about the power of human relationships and social networks. Our happiness is affected by our friend's friend's friend. Yes! Three degrees of separation. In a famous psycholgy article, The Need to Belong (Baumeister and Leary, 1995) discuss belongingness has a fundmental human need, which was supported by the latest social neuroscience findings in the book Social (Lieberman, 2013).

Thus, youth programs should focus on the promotion of connection among peers.   

Where do you want to go next?

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In partnership with the Social Development Lab at Virginia Tech, the Cor Foundation is conducting psychological research to explore adolescent student:

  • implicit beliefs about bullying and caring
  • sense of belonging
  • upstanding barriers and behaviors
  • motivational goal orientation

Applied research and prosocial program evaluation will occur across multiple school sites. 

Is your school interested in a research collaboration to understand your school climate and students? Please contact us at! 

In order to achieve research transparency, more information will be provided on the research projects,  including methodology and data analysis plans on the Open Science Framework.