Promise heard Nationwide: How one organization is changing the discussion on school shootings


Caitlin Crome

Student walking through school with their newly purchased school supplies

Caitlin Crome, Social Media Manager

Heading back to school with fresh sneakers, state-of-the-art folders and a new backpack has taken on a different meaning this school year as many began classes with the thought of one of the worst epidemics in the United States: school shootings.

The recent PSA entitled “Back-to-School Essentials” put out by Sandy Hook Promise struck a place of fear in many students who are preparing for the new school year–and that fear has been a reality for thousands of kids in this country, which is exactly what the organization wants its viewers to recognize.

The Sandy Hook Promise is a national, non-profit organization founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. Their message is “to create a culture engaged in preventing shootings, violence, and other harmful acts in schools.”  

So far the organization has made quite an impact. More than “7,500,000 adults and kids have been trained, 6,400 plus people are looked at as promised leaders, an additional 3,500,000 people have joined with the organization in promoting their message, and around 1,000 ‘promise clubs’ have been formed around the country,” the organization announced. 

Add in the millions who have viewed the newest PSA and it’s fair to say the organization is making waves.

“I first watched it in my 7th period class and I was so taken aback…my students were asking me if I was okay,” said psychology teacher Ann Berger. She later showed her husband this heart-dropping PSA. “My husband told me, ‘sometimes I hate that you are a teacher,’” she added. 

When other students and parents watched, their reactions were as one can imagine: filled with emotion. Students and teachers sat in disbelief, reflecting on what they had just watched. Many students have said their parents cried at the thought that their child must now live with such worries everyday.

“I apologize that you guys have to feel this fear. I am extremely sorry,” Berger said.

But even the Sandy Hook Promise doesn’t have the answer to solve this now epidemic.

Inside school districts throughout the country, many different precautions are being put into place. One of the most common methods of protection taught across the nation is the ALICE Drill. ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.

“This is a dynamic drill that helps students become less passive with their safety in case of emergency,” said Jamey Fah, the school deputy. “It gives students an active way to put their personal protection first.” 

Practicing this drill twice a year gives hope that the school will become more efficient with their safety. Nevertheless, even with the instruction of how to keep oneself safe in case of this emergency, the fear that so many students feel is not diminished. 

“School is a place of innocence, and yet this is the reality,” added Berger.

Because of this reality, Sandy Hook Promise has vowed to continue releasing new PSAs annually to show the nation the truth about school shootings.

Their first PSA was released in 2016 titled “Evan”. This has been the organization’s most watched PSA to date with over one billion views worldwide, ultimately changing the conversation of gun violence in schools. 

Since the newest PSA begins by leading viewers to believe it could be the newest Old Navy commercial, it has sparked conversations around the nation. “I did not realize what the video was at first,” said senior Noel Pearson. “The fact that this is a real thing that is going on is scary and upsetting.” Pearson first came across the video on Twitter. “It is pure terror to watch, honestly,” Pearson said. 

The PSA has created such buzz that it has many asking: Does the violence in the videos send the wrong message?

“Nope,” said Berger. “We have enough lies in our culture. We tend to cover up the ugly, this makes us face it so we can fix it.” 

In the past five and a half years, Sandy Hook Promise has made their mark and has caused a wave of positive change. 

The organization believes that “by uniting people of all beliefs and backgrounds who value the protection of children to take meaningful actions in their homes and communities, we will prevent gun violence and stop the tragic loss of life.”

In this new generation of violence, they believe it is more important than ever to come together as one.