A disturbing PSA released late last week by Sandy Hook Promise — a gun violence prevention group created by family members of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School — delivers a powerful message about the warning signs of school shootings that could be right in front of us, if only we were paying attention.
The groups’ video titled “Know the Signs” follows a young boy, Evan, who strikes up a secret relationship with a stranger via notes scribbled on a library desk. He searches the hallways and classrooms the entire year looking for his pen pal, hoping to uncover her identity. She finally solves the mystery on the last day of school before summer break, and as they are getting to know each other a single gunman enters the gymnasium where they are standing.
When the video is replayed with the gunman as the focus, viewers are able to see the signs we missed all along. Despite being in the background of nearly every scene, we overlook him reading a gun magazine, pictured holding a gun in an Instagram photo, angrily flipping off other students, pretending to shoot his teacher. He’s overlooked. Ignored. And that’s the point.
Unfortunately for parents, teachers, and students, lockdown drills have become an all too familiar routine in schools. Students have practiced clearing the halls and staying as silent as possible. Teachers have closed and locked classrooms, lowered window shades, corralled students into hiding places. But the video touches on something equally as important as preparation-prevention.
“We wanted to create an impactful visual to show that violence is preventable if you know the signs. Many people are unaware that there are specific signs that people give off that can indicate a violent act is imminent,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise. Her first-grade son, Dylan, died in the Sandy Hook massacre. “He’d be 10 now, I think he’d have an understanding of what I do,” Hockley said. “I hope he’d be proud of me, and know that his legacy is giving so many other people a chance at life.”
“We really hope that it is an eye opener,” Hockley said of the PSA. You can visit their website where they have a guide outlining more warning signs and listing other ways you can get involved. One of the most important conversations we as parents can have with our children? Speak up. If you see something or feel like something is off, tell someone. Tell a teacher, tell a parent, put an anonymous note on the principal’s desk. Just do something. You are never going to get in trouble by voicing your concern. And that could make all the difference.
The four-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre is coming up on December 14. That is when Adam Lanza walked into an elementary school and opened fire, killing 20 innocent children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut. Newtown was one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. According to the CDC, seven children (age 19 or under) are killed by guns in the U.S. every day, which is all the more reason why we need to be hyper-aware of the signs.