A Systems Solution to Prevent School Shootings

Gloria DeGaetanoUncategorized

14 school shootings have occurred across the United States so far in 2018. If they keep up at this rate throughout the year, they will more than double from 2017.

We all must step up our game. As adults we have a huge responsibility to address this madness and put an end to it. By not taking action, we are allowing mass media to train our children’s imagination, and look where that’s getting us? Most women (mothers) are staying too silent about the horrific violent video games their boys are playing. “I think those games are awful and not good for my son, but try and tell my husband, boyfriend that.” Yes. Practicing murder and rehearsing rape is not good for the psyche. Women know this intuitively. They know that bullying and cruelty on any level has its roots in the images in front of us. Yet, how can they can speak up, if they themselves are the victims—just like in Grand Theft Auto? We know at least one woman in four is being battered every day by their spouses or partners. No wonder they go along with 24-hour brutality as acceptable entertainment for their sons. If they rock this boat, they might be killed.

The late, great Ursula Le Guin in her 1986 commencement address at Bryn Mawr urges women:

“I want to hear you. I want to listen to you talking to each other and to us all: whether you’re writing an article or a poem or a letter or teaching a class or talking with friends or reading a novel or making a speech or proposing a law or giving a judgment or singing the baby to sleep or discussing the fate of nations, I want to hear you. Speak with a woman’s tongue. Come out and tell us what time of night it is! Don’t let us sink back into silence. If we don’t tell our truth, who will? Who’ll speak for my children, and yours?”

With the #MeToo movement going strong many women have begun telling their stories of suffering and surviving sexual abuse. I hope these women give the women living with domestic physical violence, the courage to live their truth as well.

As most of you know, the Columbine massacre of 1999 impacted me deeply—enough to move me to begin the Parent Coaching Institute and the Parent Coach Certification® Training Program.

Parent coaching, along with parent education, make up one important piece of a preventive solution. I am convinced that if the parents of the child murderers or want-to-be murderers truly understood the impact of the sadistic video game environment and the depressing, soul-sucking social media environments that make up the fabric of kids’ lives, they would parent differently—making decisions that would align with optimal development, allowing their children to flourish. I intend no blame here. Parents live in a culture they do not create. We all do. And even some who own and operate mass media strive to protect their kids from what they themselves push relentlessly on the rest of us.

In a high-tech culture dominated by the 1% there are many factors driving today’s parents to the brink of frustrations so great, that they cannot see or foresee the disastrous risk factors impacting their kids on a daily basis.

Understanding the risk factors for school shootings is the first step in preventing them.

Parent coaching succeeds in schools that pro-actively teach media/digital literacy and Internet safety (and common sense). In addition to these curricula areas, schools need to lead the charge to eradicate school shootings, with clear no tolerance policies for any type of bullying or physical, emotional abuse. Schools must not only be safe havens for our children’s physical well being, but for their mental/emotional well being, too. I worked for a decade as a school district administrator. I know these initiatives are not only do-able, they are straightforward to implement given the will to do so.

Engaging community at every level—businesses, non-profits, service agencies, religious groups, health care practitioners, hospitals, law enforcement, lawyers, accountants—leaders who have a passion for kids can come to a collective table to express their voices of how they can work to support each and every family they know and serve.

And…there is a specific way for parent coaches and other professionals who support parents to come together with visionary parents, students, teachers, district staff, and community leaders. And that way, elegant in it cohesive approach is remarkably effective. Anyone interested can get started today.

Gather as many representative adults and teens—the stakeholders who want to do something about this tragic epidemic—in the same room, and take them through a SOAR planning session. Systemic solutions will follow.

SOAR, developed by Jacqueline M. Stavros and Gina Hinrichs, “is a strategic planning framework that focuses on strengths and seeks to understand the whole system by including the voices of relevant stakeholders.” (p. 6) SOAR is built upon the underlying paradigm of “a systems approach (which) tries to understand the integration and dynamics of the many relationships and interactions among people, locations, and functions. The whole systems approach helps stakeholders see and understand at a high level how the system works and where their unique contributions make a difference.” (p.6)

SOAR conversations ask a series of questions, first reviewed by a core team or committee, to ask of all stakeholders. A SOAR example from The Thin Book of SOAR:

Strengths:                                What can we build on?

Opportunities:                        What can we do for our youth?

Aspirations:                            What do we desire to be?

Results:                                    How do we know we are succeeding?

When participants finish a SOAR process, they can summarize for anyone what the stakeholders want and why, what the future direction is and how they will get there, what needs to be done, and what each person’s contribution means to the overall success. (pp. 19.-20)

If you want to do something about the alarming escalation of school shootings, bringing representative stakeholders together and going through a SOAR process is a place to start. You may want to combine that process with some of the actions I suggest in Chapter 5 of Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill.

Or you may want to create your own plan from scratch. Whatever you initiate to involve more of the whole system in creating solutions to prevent school shootings the better. Begin with your authentic voice and your authentic voice will lead you and your colleagues to the next step.

“If we don’t tell our truth, who will? Who’ll speak for my children, and yours?”

All of us must.

Without all of us, our individual voice won’t matter. But with all of us working collectively, our individual voice gains traction to effect positive change.


The Thin Book of Soar: Building Strengths-Based Strategy, Jacqueline M. Stavros and Gina Hinrichs, Thin Book Publishing Company, 2009.


Copyright, 2018, Gloria DeGaetano