School Shooting PSAs Make Impact

Ads Aim to Shock People into School Shooting Awareness

The “Back to School” Sandy Hook Promise PSA. Photo courtesy of Sandy Hook Promise.

The “Back to School” Sandy Hook Promise PSA. Photo courtesy of Sandy Hook Promise.

Rebecca Barnholtz, Staff Reporter

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Throughout the past couple of years, there has been a rise in school shootings across the nation. As the country with the most school shootings per year, the government has been bombarded with different solutions from lobbyists.

With movements such as March for Our Lives and Students Demand Action, many protests, rallies, and efforts are made to ensure that the U.S. is no longer recognized as a country with these many fatalities.
With 94 shootings in 2018 alone, different organizations that partner with schools that have had shootings have created and released ads to spread awareness on the topic.

The two most popular ads are ones created and distributed by Sandy Hook Promise. Both of these ads focus on real-life scenarios and bringing the reality of school shootings to the viewer.

We pulled aside students and staff to get their reactions from the different PSAs and gain insight on their viewpoints.

The first ad we showed was Sandy Hook Promise’s newest PSA called, “Back to School.” This PSA focuses on a classic back to school sale ad for stores such as Target or Office Depot, except with a twist. As the ad goes on, the characters are faced with chilling incidents in a school shooting, such as running with a crowd or even texting their parents how much they love them.

Upon being released, this ad took social media by storm, being all over every platform and having reactions shown on different morning shows.
Junior Farheen Khan’s initial reaction was a call to action.

“They’re difficult to watch, but they’re necessary. People need to understand, they have to do it the hard way,” Khan said.
Meanwhile, senior Jacob Greene’s reaction was full of surprise.

“It was a lot more of a shock and a more sad than the older one,” said Greene.

Senior Kaitlyn Goldstein noted that this PSA was more meaningful, knowing that these ads aren’t far from reality.

“I think the second one is more emotionally impactful because as it progresses, it shows kids running through the hallway and it shows the girl hiding in the bathroom talking to her mom,” Goldstein said.

The second ad shown was an old Sandy Hook Promise PSA from 2016 called, “Evan.” The premise of this PSA is that a boy Evan is trying to find a girl he has been writing on a desk in the library, but in the background are the signs of a school shooter.

At the end of the first half of the PSA when Evan meets the girl, the shooter comes into the gym and you hear people screaming, as if it came out of nowhere. The ad then backtracks to all the points that the viewer likely missed hinting at this event.

This ad highlights the relevance of noticing the warning signs of a shooter in comparison to the more violent take the “Back to School” PSA focuses on.

AP Psychology teacher Brad Robertson shows this ad in his class to focus on the idea of selective attention and how we focus on just the main character’s story in the ad. Not only does it serve as an example of this concept, but it also brings awareness to an issue that is prevalent in our everyday lives.

“It kills two birds with one stone. We can talk about our psychological ideas and concepts, but at the same time it’s a really important issue and sadly it’s something we do have to spend a lot of time in schools, making sure that we’re safe and prepared and something that just permeates through people’s minds, both teachers and students,” Robertson said.

Goldstein noted the large impact this PSA leaves on an individual.

“You don’t see it at first and all of a sudden he comes in and starts shooting and you’re like ‘Oh my god, where’d he come from?’ and they had to go over it again,” Goldstein said.

Similar to Goldstein, Robertson noted how compelling it is.

“I’ve seen this one a number of times and seriously every time I watch it, I get a shiver. I think it’s really powerful as it is easily missed,” Robertson said.

These ads are meant to spread awareness on the issue of school shootings and even gun control. The more wide-spread these PSAs are and the larger the audience is, more students and even more of the U.S. population will be educated. But some noted that these PSAs only have you thinking, not necessarily giving someone a spark to take action.

“I think everybody knows what they’re trying to accomplish, that school shootings are happening. But I feel like it’s just not really doing anything, that it’s making people more scared to go to school and it’s just then producing more of the reality which I guess does help some people realize what’s actually going on” Greene said.

“We’re good as a society at saying ‘this is an issue, this is something that I’m angry about or complaining about’. But we’re really stumbling as a society in saying, ‘well, now what, what action can be taken and what should be done about it’,” said Robertson.

Goldstein noted the underlying meaning behind these PSAs.

“I think the real meaning is to show that this could happen anywhere, anytime and to be aware of your surroundings,” Goldstein said.

Overall, these PSAs have a large impact on the viewers, prompting them to think differently and perceive school shootings as something that is more common today than ever before.

“I think people should see these ads because these things do happen, it’s something to keep in mind,” Junior Adam Geisz said.

“I think everyone needs to watch these ads. If you’re not understanding what’s going on, you need to know,” Khan said.

“When these school shootings happen elsewhere, there’s a lot of people that think ‘Oh it will never happen to me’ and I think these ads show that it can happen to you and its why it’s such a big problem,” Goldstein said.