Jarring back-to-school video aims to prevent school shootings

The 'Back-To-School Essentials' video was produced by Sandy Hook Promise

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A new public service announcement is gaining a lot of attention because of its focus on a gravely serious topic: school shootings.

The announcement, titled “Back-To-School Essentials,” was released by Sandy Hook Promise, an advocacy group founded in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 that killed 28 people, including the shooter.

TIP SHEET: Sandy Hook Promise's 'Know the Signs' pamphlet

The video begins with students returning to school. Then a student runs down the hallway and apparent gunfire while saying, “These new sneakers are just what I needed for the new year.” Immediately, the video shows students jumping out of windows and arming themselves with classroom tools for self-defense. Perhaps the most gripping part of the video is when a middle school-aged girl holding her cellphone, sobbing: “I got my phone to stay in touch with my mom.”

Sandy Hook Promise also encourages students to recognize the signs of a potential school shooter before it comes to violence. In February, News4Jax spoke with Dr. Christine Cauffield about the makeup of school shooters. Cauffield, a licensed clinical psychologist and CEO for Lutheran Services Florida Health Systems, said in most cases shooters are troubled young men who have dealt with mental illness daily for at least one year before an attack – as was the case with the man charged in the Parkland shooting that unfolded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018.

The same description provided by Cauffield also fits the gunman who opened fire during a Madden NFL 19 tournament held last August at the now-defunct Jacksonville Landing. "It really speaks to the necessity to have access to mental health counseling, medication, substance abuse treatment," Cauffield said.

She added that young shooters, including teens, often experience extreme isolation, anger issues, and a fascination with weapons or other shooters. She said trauma experienced in the early years and feelings of self-worth can be factors too. "They're despairing. Oftentimes, they have homicidal ideation. They make comments or gestures that indicate violent aggression," Cauffield explained.

The PSA has received a lot of views online and was released shortly after Congress returned to session as gun violence remains a hot topic among lawmakers. The group calls itself an “above-the-politics organization that supports sensible program and policy solutions that address the “human side” of gun violence.”

Yet the group has also taken a stand on some political action, primarily focused on championing legislation that would place stronger controls over the public’s access to firearms. On its website, the organization notes that it “supports legislation that enables family or friends to alert law enforcement to a potentially dangerous situation and gives law enforcement the tools and authority they need to remove firearms in the interest of public safety.”

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