Sandy Hook parents release chilling 'back to school' PSA

The group's "Back to School Essentials" takes a dark look at the threat posed by guns on campus.

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By David K. Li

An anti-gun violence group, connected to the Sandy Hook massacre, unveiled a chilling "back to school" PSA on Wednesday, showing how kids could be forced to use ordinary possessions to fend off active shooters.

The Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, based out of Newtown, Connecticut, depicts smiling, happy children suddenly having to employ skateboards, jackets and cell phones in life-or-death moments.

"We don't want people to turn away from it, so pretending it doesn't exist is not helping to solve it," Sandy Hook parent Nicole Hockley told NBC's "Today" show, which debuted the shocking, minute-long video.

Hockley's 6-year-old son Dylan was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, and his older brother Jake, now a high school sophomore, survived the massacre that left 20 students between the ages of 5 and 10, and six adults dead.

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The PSA, "Back-To-School Essentials," begins innocently and innocuously with kids showing off their new backpacks, binders and headphones they're taking to school.

Then the video takes a suddenly dark turn, with the PSA depicting scenes all-too real in the age of school shootings.

  • A boy told the camera, "These new sneakers are just what I needed for the new year," as he's chased down a hallway by a shooter.
  • "My parents got me this skateboard I wanted, it's pretty cool," said another child, as he uses his wheels to smash a window and flee danger.
  • "These scissors really come in handy in art class," one girl said brandishing the blades, as her classmate chimed in, "These colored pencils too." Both were standing near a classroom door, apparently ready to ambush an oncoming attacker.
  • "These new socks can be a real lifesaver," said another girl, using her footwear to tie a tourniquet on a wounded classmate.

Then the gut-punch final scene has a girl hiding in bathroom texting, "I love you mom."

"I finally got my own phone to stay in touch with my mom,'' the tearful girl says, with the ominous sound of a creaking door with approaching footsteps.

"At the end, the girl with the phone gets me every time," said Hockley, a co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise.

The PSA then fades to darkness with a nearly empty screen and the words: "It's back to school time and you know what that means. School shootings are preventable when you know the signs."

Sandy Hook Promise is no stranger to provocative works. Last year, the group ran "Point of View," a 110-second PSA that seemed to show a typical high school day — before an angry boy pulls out a high-powered weapon and shouts, "Look at me!"

In 2017, it ran a spot to remind viewers of warning signs of a possible school shooting. "Tomorrow's News" dramatized a local TV news report — but with interview subjects speaking in the future tense, with cliches familiar to school-shooting stories.