The PSA below contains graphic content related to school shootings and may be upsetting to some viewers. If you feel this subject matter may be difficult for you, you may choose not to watch.
Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit organization led by family members whose loved ones were killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, released a chilling PSA intended to educate viewers about the potential warning signs of school shootings. The PSA begins cheerfully enough––an apparent back-to-school school supply ad––but eerily turns frightening as the students in the ad, who are now defending themselves against an attack, continue to showcase typical back-to-school items such as scissors, colored pencils, socks, even a skateboard. The ad closes with a terrified girl in a dark restroom texting her mother, “I love you mom.”
The ad is clearly shocking. Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan who was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting, said in a statement, “So far this year there have been over 22 school shootings, and with students heading back to school, it seems sadly probable that we will see more incidents. This is unacceptable, given that we have proven tools to prevent these acts from occurring. We cannot accept school shootings as the new normal in our country. Our goal with this PSA is to wake up parents to the horrible reality that our children endure. Gone are the days of viewing back-to-school as just a carefree time, when school violence has become so prevalent. However, if we come together to know the signs, this doesn’t have to be the case. I hope that parents across the country will join me to make the promise to stop this epidemic.”
The ad certainly gets a viewer’s attention. But does it accomplish its goal? Does it “wake up parents to the horrible reality that our children endure”? Ads that shock to get attention, particularly PSAs, are no stranger to Media Ethics Report: Some years ago we reported on a shocking “Don’t skip school” ad. What are the moral issues involved in producing ads like this?