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Head to Head: Sandy Hook Promise PSA
November 1, 2019
Sandy Hook Promise is an organization dedicated to preventing school shootings after the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting back in December of 2012. Some of the steps they take to prevent gun violence is addressing the “human side” of armed violence by creating different PSAs. Among these is Back to School Essentials. This video brings awareness to society about the tragedies occurring in schools regarding gun violence.
This is the PSA the U.S. needs
On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary school where he shot and murdered 28 people. The victims were teachers and staff, along with children with ages ranging from kindergarten through fourth grade. After examination of the bodies, most victims were only 6 to 7 years old and each shot repeatedly.
After this horrible tragedy, Sandy Hook Elementary School decided they had had enough. They created Back to School Essentials, a public service announcement video with the tagline, “survive the school year with these must-have back to school essentials”.
At the beginning of the PSA, the video shows young children getting ready for the school year, showing the camera a new backpack their mom got for them and some folders. As the video progresses, it starts to take a turn.
A boy says, “These sneakers are just what I need for the new year” as he sprints down the hall with a dark figure appearing to be a shooter in the background.
A girl says, “this jacket is a real must have,” as she anxiously ties her jacket around gym doors to apparently shut out the intruder.
The video goes on to show how ordinary things such as a skateboard, socks, scissors or colored pencils could be used as a form of defense against the school shooter. It even goes so far as to show a child with a bleeding bullet wound struggling as another student ties her sock around the child’s leg to stop the bleeding.
At first glance, it appeared as though it was just a regular back to school commercial, nothing more than advertising new folders, notebooks or pencils. I think that is what made the PSA so alarming.
The way they tried to normalize the video as a commercial is a direct parallel to the way people are becoming used to how many mass shootings, or specifically, school shootings occur every year.
The United States is accustomed to preparing for “when it happens,” not “if it happens”. That, to me, is the most frightening part.
Yes, the PSA is horrifying and disgusting and extremely scary, but I think it is ultimately necessary. Protests are no longer enough. News articles and broadcasts are no longer enough.
The public needs to see this PSA in order to realize that there are children literally preparing for a school shooter. They need to see how horrible this new reality actually is. They need to be shocked. They need to be alarmed. They need to wake up! I think this PSA did exactly that. It wakes America up. That is exactly what we need in today’s America.
This PSA will scar our youth
Recently the Sandy Hook Promise Organization released a public service announcement called Back to Essentials, in which students were seemingly enjoying a back to school venture. It showed students showing off binders and pencils before one student brings up his new shoes as he is running down a hall. This is where things really take a turn.
There were kids breaking windows trying to escape the shooter and tying up bleeding gunshot wounds with socks. At the end, there is a girl in the bathroom stall talking about how her new phone lets her keep in touch with her mom. After a text to her mom, you hear the shooter walk into the bathroom as the girl silently cries and tenses up. The ending text says to look for the signs.
The entire PSA rubbed me the wrong way. This PSA was a back-to-school ad basically saying all we can do now is prepare our kids for when a shooting happens and there is no way to prevent it. This does not help solve the problem. It showed no signs to help prevent a school shooter.
In contrast, years ago we had a Sandy Hook PSA where the characters were writing messages on a desk to one another throughout its entirety, not knowing who is responding. Right at the end, they recognize each other’s handwriting during yearbook signing and seemingly ending happily. Before a random person bursts in and begins firing. It is shown that the shooter was a student who was in the background of the entire PSA. Pretending to shoot teachers, being bullied and being very abrasive toward his fellow students. Then, it as fully set into the viewer that the blurred background was the one you should have really been paying attention to. This behavior was examples of signs that people should look out for.
Now though, we have this PSA, which doesn’t give any examples of signs to look for, and still gives the ending slogan of,”Shootings are preventable when you know the signs.” All it did was show kids trying to survive and fleeing from the shooter.
This video is commendable for the showing the blunt reality of the situation around shootings, but then you think about how this can easily reach younger audiences. Students K-12 have the easiest access to almost all forms of media. When they see this PSA, a fearful reaction is to be expected. Kids become afraid to go to school, distressed in class or afraid of people.
All in all, this PSA does help bring awareness to the fact that shootings are more frequent now than ever before. Despite this, it didn’t give any indication of what signs could be to help prevent shootings. This does more harm than good when exposed to the younger audience it’s focusing on.