It’s been nearly seven years since a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and took the lives of 20 first-graders and six faculty members. Following this tragedy, family members of those that were killed founded a national non-profit organization named Sandy Hook Promise. Their goal is “turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation by providing programs and practices that protect children from gun violence.”
On Sept. 17, Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) released a public service announcement titled, “Back-to-School Essentials.” The PSA begins with students showing off their new school supplies, just as any typical back-to-school commercial would. However, chaos ensues in the background of each scene as teachers and students experience an active shooter.
One student shows off her new binders as a teacher can be seen frantically locking the classroom door. Another student is shown using her new sock as a tourniquet to help her peer who had been shot. The final scene shows a heart-breaking moment where a young girl is texting her mother from her new phone as she hides from the gunman in a bathroom stall.
The video illustrates the threat of gun violence in the everyday lives of students. Many parents and children feel excited for back-to-school time because it means new clothes, new supplies and the kids finally being out of the house. This gut-wrenching PSA shows the reality of American schools. According to the Gun Violence Association, there have been more mass shootings than there have been days of the year in 2019. As of Sept. 24, 2019, the 267th day of the year, there have been 312 mass shootings.
While many people applauded SHP for their willingness to show the unsettling truth of a modern school environment, they were also faced with harsh criticism and backlash. It is being described as “fear-mongering” and “propoganda.” The shock factor of this commercial angered Twitter user @Jane83Plain as she shared her opinion of the PSA.
Mother of 6-year-old victim, Dylan Hockley, and co-founder of the SHP Foundation, Nicole Hockley, explained the premise of the ad during an interview on the “Today” show. Hockley said, “That’s the point of this PSA, to kind of shock parents and say, ‘This is not what school should be about. We need to take action to prevent these [school shootings].'” Hockley emphasized that the video was not intended to scare people, rather to show the new normal for children at school.
Dec. 14, 2019 will mark the 7th anniversary of the shooting. The first-graders killed would’ve been in 8th grade this year.