December 3, 2016 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Can you figure out the mystery inside this remarkable ad about high school love? (Do watch the ad before scrolling further.)
posted by carrienation (67 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
That was...the most effective ad I have seen in a long time.
posted by mittens at 7:21 AM on December 3, 2016 [12 favorites]

Ick--sorry I watched it.
posted by Chriswill44 at 7:27 AM on December 3, 2016 [9 favorites]

I get the message, but I also feel like I've been manipulated into a guilty state of mind for not showing constant vigilance about gun violence. Sandy Hook (and many other similar incidents) are tragic. So was 9/11. But I don't want to live in a state of fear brought on by a constant need to be aware and vigilant. I want to live with the nervous wonder of a mystery pen-pal. I don't want my kids to grow up in a school with metal detectors, security doors, and lock-down drills. I'm tired of the culture of terror.

In the US at least, the government would like us to believe that we are winning the war on "terror" - that we CAN win a war on terror. But as long as we're constantly fearful to the point of disregarding happiness and wonder in our lives, we've already lost.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 7:32 AM on December 3, 2016 [79 favorites]

Hmm.. I didn't fell manipulated, and I thought the ad was really effective. Of course we don't see the gorilla walk through the scene when the camera is focused on the love story at the center of the action. But, having that other story in the background is a really effective reminder that there are a million stories going on all around us, and some of those people are in pain and crying out for help. I don't think the ad is advocating for metal detectors or security doors. It's advocating for paying attention to the people around us. That seems like a good message, so I don't get the ick factor others did.
posted by willnot at 7:41 AM on December 3, 2016 [38 favorites]

Really powerful ad but I'm not sure what to do with it. I don't like the idea of obsessively scrutinizing everything teenagers do... we all deserve some privacy and few folks who go through a gun obsession phase actually do anything harmful?
posted by metasarah at 7:45 AM on December 3, 2016 [9 favorites]

I knew something bad was going to happen from the beginning. Then I thought it was probably going to turn out to be a guy he was communicating with. Then I thought, shit something bad and homophobic is going to happen. Then when they lingered on the kid at the computer I thought, "oh no it's going to be him."
posted by chococat at 7:45 AM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

My immediate reaction was "oh, so school shootings are my fault for not paying enough attention, when all this time I thought that some sort of sane gun control policy that keeps automatic weapons out of the easy reach of disturbed people might have a bearing on the situation."

Thanks for clearing that up, BBDO.
posted by Shepherd at 7:55 AM on December 3, 2016 [72 favorites]

I think the point of the ad was if we pay closer attention to our kids we won't need metal detectors at the school doors.
posted by COD at 7:56 AM on December 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'm NOT going to show this to my 10 year old daughter, why make her live in fear?

Clearly we have a culture problem, we won't let kids see the odd human without clothing, but shooting and watching their heads explode is ok for them.

posted by MikeWarot at 7:58 AM on December 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yikes! That was scary. So I went to Sandy Hook Promise to see what the signs are and, let's just say, they make it hard to get the information.
posted by Bee'sWing at 8:00 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Woof. I loved this ad for so many reasons. Though the punchline of the ad centered around gun violence, this ad echoes a perhaps emerging theme of 2016: how "surprises" can hide in plain sight (cue Brexit, Trump, etc.). I don't think this ad calls for hyper-vigilance, but perhaps general awareness of the issues of the day and to at least have cognition. Sure, I didn't grow up with this gun scare in my school back in the day, but over the years I've picked up on cues regarding mental disorders, eating disorders, mistreatment of certain walks of life, and the like, to start taking certain things far more serious than on the surface.

Wow, I needed something like this today. Mind blown. Thanks |carrienation| for posting the link.
posted by Conway at 8:01 AM on December 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

So I watched the ad, then went on Sandy Hook Promise's website, but what are we actually supposed to do once we identify the signs? There was little information provided. It is probably largely irrelevant for me as I don't work with children or teenagers, but I am curious to know what the plan of action is supposed to be. The teacher/administrator/trusted adult does... what? Calls the police? Tries to talk to the child in question to find out what's up? Talks to the child's parents? I am afraid this might lead to more children being stigmatized than anything productive occurring to stop school shootings.
posted by sevenofspades at 8:02 AM on December 3, 2016

It was an effective ad in that it made plain that when you're being trained to watch one thing, you're probably not trying (or perhaps even able) to see something else, totally unrelated. It works for the same reason a David Blaine card trick works.

I agree the framing blows, because it seems to place the blame for a kid showing up to gym with a shotgun and a heart full of hate on the viewer as opposed to the many and sundry systems that are supposed to prevent it, from the teachers to the school administration to gun laws.
posted by Mooski at 8:02 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't know what this says about me, but I was expecting a school shooting after watching the first 30 seconds or so. The social media photo with the gun clinched it.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 8:04 AM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

And it's just wrong. The world is out of balance, schools call the police when a six year old draws a picture of a gun or has a tantrum.

Unfortunately it seems that the horrors of shootings happen largely because of prior example.


Do we erase history somehow?

It would be such a great benefit to society as a whole to give better help to a vast spectrum of folks with emotional/psychological/mental issues. Yes it would be a Benefit TO Republicans (not just bleeding hart poor commie/socialists :-) But will that stop shootings? probably not entirely, it's a complex place this world is, and the tiniest crack will find a way to have someone drop through it and make a huge huge really HUGE headline.
posted by sammyo at 8:05 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Good PSA. I lived in Virginia at the time of the VT shooting; one of my close friends was a student at Tech. It's absolutely true that there are usually escalating "warning" behaviors. For instance, at Tech, the shooter had written very violent essays for class assignments, and I remember hearing that he had been flagged in some way by school administration but nothing came of it.

I would have liked to see an alternative reality ending, where the at-risk student IS identified early, and what actions the school or his parents or whoever take. It's true that our system is very broken, but our system is made up of people, and as people, we need to know what to do.
posted by basalganglia at 8:42 AM on December 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

Four years ago a young man walked into an elementary school and killed 20 children and 6 adults with an assault rifle.

America's political response was to make it easier to buy assault rifles.

It's a well intentioned ad, and I'm all for helping young men who are in murderous crisis, recognizing the signs that they are radicalizing into actors in gun death culture. Maybe it will even help a little bit. But you really want to stop mass shootings? End the gun culture. End the access to murder toys.

This year a young man walked into a gay nightclub and killed 49 adults with an assault rifle.

America's political response was nothing.

(To be fair to Sandy Hook Promise, they also do political work towards gun control and have engendered a bit of controversy for it.)
posted by Nelson at 8:55 AM on December 3, 2016 [21 favorites]

I guess that my feeling, as someone who works with college students in a student support capacity, is that we should notice and care about emotionally distressed students because they are human beings who deserve our support and compassion. Those students are much more likely to be a threat to themselves than to anyone else. Of the small minority who are potentially a threat to other people, they're much more likely to be contemplating targeted interpersonal violence than random mass shootings. I think we should pay attention to each other because we should pay attention to each other; we should treat other people with respect and notice when something isn't right with them. That would have all sorts of positive effects, including that we might notice the very infrequent instances when people were planning to shoot up their school. But we might also notice when someone hasn't taken a shower in a week because they're overwhelmed by their depression, or when they're sleeping through classes because their dad lost his job and they're picking up overnight shifts at work to send money home to pay the rent, or when they're stressed out because they broke up with their boyfriend and now he's tweeting threats to kill himself. We shouldn't need the threat of school shootings to make us care about students who are in distress.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:56 AM on December 3, 2016 [20 favorites]

The PSA worked for me: I missed the clues. Insofar as the Sandy Hook Promise website goes, it was at least partially an initiative on the part of the parents of some of the Connecticut victims, and it does offer some specific solutions. They may or may not go as far as some of us want in specific policy changes regarding gun sales, but gun "access" is part of their legislative agenda. The website is more or less an abstract/précis, something that points to the actual work they do in schools. Certainly paying attention to some of the "warning signs" that sometimes show up is part of a prevention effort.

I have participated in some anti-bullying programs at my school, and they encourage active physical and emotional participation, and are effective. Hopefully the Sandy Hook Promise workers are well-trained and put on similar programs in schools. Sure, there will be cases of kids with dark fantasies but no real malign intent who will be made uncomfortable by close questioning in some cases, but that's not a reason to take steps to prevent greater disasters.
posted by kozad at 8:59 AM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

For instance, at Tech, the shooter had written very violent essays for class assignments, and I remember hearing that he had been flagged in some way by school administration but nothing came of it.

Just recently I read an account that was the flip side of that - a nerdy kid who'd discovered the psychological horror genre decided to try writing a story about being stalked for his English class, and his teacher dragged him into the guidance counselor's office demanding he be counselled. The teacher even called the police, who showed up, read the bewildered student's story, and after talking to the kid for five minutes finally said "you're a good writer," told the teacher to "calm down" and left.

This is not to say, though, that a pattern of behavior can't be an indicator of future trouble. But this can be a difficult thing to assess, there are lots of false positives, and because of that, it strikes me that the far more effective means of stopping school shootings is to stop making it so easy for students to GET guns.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:05 AM on December 3, 2016 [11 favorites]

Wow, like someone else said, mind blown.

Not to make this political (because it is already), but especially now, especially going forward, watching out for each other and our mental health is going to continue to be more important. With a government that wants to provide people with more guns, the only way to protect ourselves is going to be to watch for these signs more. It's not about making your kids live in a state of fear. It's making sure your kids know that the danger is real.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:08 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Evan's following the school shooter on instagram? Are they friends?
posted by Greg Nog at 9:33 AM on December 3, 2016 [8 favorites]

America man, DTMFguns already. You don't have to live this way.
With love,
The rest of the world.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:45 AM on December 3, 2016 [8 favorites]

EmpressCallipygos, that's a very good point about false positives and overreaction. I felt the point of the PSA was that someone ought to reach out and talk to the shooter. It sounds like that's what happened in the account you mention -- someone asked the kid what's up. That someone should probably have been his teacher and not the police, but I don't think maintaining a high index of suspicion for this is unreasonable, especially given the number of people who have been killed or hurt in mass shootings at schools and workplaces in the last two decades.

I really want to see better gun control legislation, but I don't think that's happening any time soon, certainly not in the next four years. I also worry that further stigmatization and defunding of our mental health system is not going to help matters. But these are all policy and system level issues. What I want to know is what can I, on an individual level, do when I am worried that someone is reaching a mental health crisis. If you see small but escalating behaviors, what is the line in the sand at which you say, "Hey, this person needs some extra support" and how do you provide that support? I recognize that's probably outside the scope of a 2 minute YouTube spot, but I think it's an important question nonetheless.
posted by basalganglia at 9:57 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

The gun control issue was settled and dead when America watched the bodies of children being taken out of the elementary school on the news and collectively decided they were okay with innocent kids being collateral damage if it meant they could keep their guns. When that violence is so normalized that people shrug and donate to the NRA to lobby against gun control, we've lost the debate.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 9:59 AM on December 3, 2016 [27 favorites]

I came here to say what EmpressCallipygos said.

You can't take the sample size of shooters as an indication of what signs to look for. For one, they are to small a sample, for two the possible cohort of signs could be infinite, and for three, as pointed out above, the cohort of false positives is also infinite.

Also ArbitraryandCapracious pointed out, all students with emotional distress should be offered help.

I appreciate the effort's Sandy Hook is making, but I would like to see them generalize their message to help all emotionally distressed students. The gun thing they are already doing, but that problem seems intractable.
posted by herda05 at 10:06 AM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm troubled by what the "signs" are shown to be. A kid sits by himself listening to music. A kid gets randomly bullied. A kid watches a Youtube video which appears to involve a dude with a gun (which could be anything from an actual jihadist instruction video to a clip from a current Hollywood blockbuster). All of these are so common that parents/teachers/administrators hyperconscious of these "signs" are likely to end up targeting as potential threats kids who are basically fine or, worse, kids who are in some social distress but whose lives will not be improved by being treated as possible future mass murderers.

(The Instagram with the gun image is obviously the exception, though for me it went by fast enough that I registered only that it was a a kid in black in an odd pose, not that he had a gun in his hand.)

Part of this is that by telling the story as a single narrative, the ad ends up presenting fairly ambiguous single and common events as Danger Warning Signs. That's a technical problem. But, really, shouldn't we rather be focusing on identifying signs of social distress in our kids as a general matter? Assuming that for whatever reason we aren't interested in fixing either (a) the availability of powerful weapons to random teenagers or (b) the incredible violence embedded in our culture's conception of masculinity?

Just recently I read an account that was the flip side of that - a nerdy kid who'd discovered the psychological horror genre decided to try writing a story about being stalked for his English class, and his teacher dragged him into the guidance counselor's office demanding he be counselled. The teacher even called the police, who showed up, read the bewildered student's story, and after talking to the kid for five minutes finally said "you're a good writer," told the teacher to "calm down" and left.

When I was in high school I wrote a story where a vampire came to the campus of a boarding school and started killing people. Protagonist student was sufficiently socially alienated to not mind. Sort of Heathers meets Interview with a Vampire, what can I say, it was a certain moment in pop culture (but I really did dislike a lot of the rich kids I was stuck on that campus with). Ten years later, this probably would have drawn all sorts of horrible attention from the school--it wouldn't have made any student one whit nicer or more understanding, but it sure would have made my life more miserable. Especially as a student who was there on sufferance, I mean scholarship, and so could more easily be policed by the administration.
posted by praemunire at 10:09 AM on December 3, 2016 [8 favorites]

A kid sits by himself listening to music.

Look closer.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:11 AM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

I admit I didn't notice the gun violence warning signs, but I did pick up on Evan's willful vandalism of public property, which no one else seems to be concerned with at all. Not cool, Evan.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:13 AM on December 3, 2016 [41 favorites]

Look closer.

Not visible, I think, in the initial shot when he's filmed head-on and lifts his headset to talk to the girl?
posted by praemunire at 10:15 AM on December 3, 2016

Not visible, I think, in the initial shot when he's filmed head-on and lifts his headset to talk to the girl?

That is the initial shot. The girl approaching him (who he flips off) is in a scene after that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:20 AM on December 3, 2016

This would be a much better ad if it was about an unnoticed teen comitting suicide. As it is, it's more hysterical fear-mongering about something that almost never happens. You'd save more lives (although still almost none) if the video were about how nobody noticed the boy eating Snickers bars until that poor girl died of an allergic reaction to peanuts.
posted by straight at 10:24 AM on December 3, 2016 [14 favorites]

This is lame.

The only thing it demonstrates is that conventional filmmaking techniques successfully manage our attention.

Of course we don't tend to notice incidental background crap in a movie when it is carefully presented as incidental background crap using well honed cinematic techniques.
posted by cron at 10:36 AM on December 3, 2016 [13 favorites]

I thought we were being set up for a touching May-December romance between the boy and one of the custodial staff.
posted by Flashman at 10:37 AM on December 3, 2016 [9 favorites]

I wanna yell something about correlation and causation here.
posted by parm at 10:48 AM on December 3, 2016

Lack of awareness of spatial and social surroundings has become one of my biggest pet peeves with my species; this psa succeeds in that sense, imo.

We are too easily distracted by shiny things and feels.
posted by mannequito at 10:55 AM on December 3, 2016

We are too easily distracted by shiny things and feels.

As cron says, though, really more standard cinematic techniques for attracting attention. As a matter of fact, that people noticed the guy at all (as many, I think, did, expecting that he might be "Bored"'s correspondent) is because he, too, was positioned in the way we have come to recognize as meriting secondary attention, especially in contexts where one expects that the apparent narrative is being undercut in some way. Look at the still roomthreeseventeen posted above: Bored is closer to the camera and in more focus, but the shooter is still on one of the thirds (actually slightly more than Bored is), still mostly in focus, and the light's actually directed towards him, not Bored: as compared to the out-of-focus, not-lit girl further back and nearer the center.
posted by praemunire at 11:01 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

America man, DTMFguns already. You don't have to live this way.
With love,
The rest of the world.

That would require an amendment to the Constitution.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 11:06 AM on December 3, 2016

So yeah if life was just like this, where we saw videos of interactions, sure, yeah we missed it. But So are they saying that the kids writing on the desks shouldn't have been so involved with themselves?

I dunno, this PSA seems weird to me.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 11:12 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, on a literal level, if the viewer is being challenged as a parent/teacher/admin who didn't pick up the signs, are we meant to think that this viewer is creepily observing a high-school romance over time and that's why he missed the mass murderer in the background? That's not what's meant, but the literal/metaphorical mismatch is a bit jarring.
posted by praemunire at 11:15 AM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

It might help if people didn't take the ad as being like a game or somehow testing their abilities, it's as much a metaphor about what and how we pay attention as it is a lesson on filmmaking techniques or spotting school shooters. Getting all wrapped up in whether someone should or shouldn't have noticed something in the ad rather misses the point, which is to start to try and pay more attention to those around you, not just yourself or "protagonist".

That the ad is attracting debate on those secondary issues though is entirely predictable and could be counted against the ad in some way, though it also boosts awareness of its existence. It's the crappy trade offs people are making in the social media age. To get attention gamify, cheat a little or mess with perspective otherwise you won't get noticed, and in the end people will still bitch no matter how valuable your message might be in the abstract.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:19 AM on December 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

That would require an amendment to the Constitution.

A well regulated Militia medical system, being necessary to the physical, mental and emotional security of free people, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms universal healthcare, shall not be infringed.

posted by UbuRoivas at 11:41 AM on December 3, 2016 [9 favorites]

As we used to say on the debate team, your critique is nothing without an alternative. What is this PSA asking us to do? Observe, suspect, yes, but then what? Report, obviously! Inform! "See something, say something!" Be suspicious of everyone, criminalize teenage angst, get the police and/or homeland security involved in kids' lives as soon as possible!

Keep on cultivating that culture of fear, suspicion, and distrust of people unlike you. Here's an idea--maybe buy a gun to protect yourself from those terrifying "others". ...oh, wait...
posted by Krawczak at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


Great! Now you just need to get 2/3 of both houses of Congress to vote for it and 3/4 of the state legislatures to ratify it and we are in business!
posted by Roger Dodger at 12:26 PM on December 3, 2016

I was a mopey, gothy teenager with a morbid sense of humor who played doom and wrote violence Marilyn Manson lyrics all over everything. I was also entirely nonviolent. I was pulled out of class more than once to talk to a counselor because teachers were concerned. And that's fine. Better safe than sorry.

But we wouldn't have to be so hyper-vigilant if our gun laws and culture weren't utterly sick. This response is a solution to the wrong problem.
posted by es_de_bah at 12:36 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I laughed when I first saw the silhouette of the shooter readying his firearm because my immediate thought was that it was some kind of fourth wall breaking comment on these types of sappy narratives. I thought the video was going to end there. Then they went through the background reveal of all of the abuse the shooter had been going through. I don't believe in murder but I didn't especially feel bad for those students either.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 12:46 PM on December 3, 2016

I don't know how useful it is as a PSA, but I enjoyed it the same way I enjoyed those lifeguard spot-the-distressed-swimmer training videos. I can always use a reminder to be more aware of my surroundings.
posted by tiaz at 12:55 PM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

This response is a solution to the wrong problem.
No, it's one of the multi-faceted solutions to a multi-faceted problem.
posted by tommyD at 1:09 PM on December 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

Great! Now you just need to get 2/3 of both houses of Congress to vote for it and 3/4 of the state legislatures to ratify it and we are in business!

Yeah, isn't it frustrating being shackled by a centuries-old document that pre-existed even basic notions of sanitation?

Somebody should mount an argument that the Founding Fathers would have prioritised universal healthcare over the right to bear arms, had they had even the vaguest proto-modern conception that such a thing as healthcare could ever exist.

Or that life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness is contingent on physical & mental health.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:16 PM on December 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

And not being shot randomly by some dickhead.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:23 PM on December 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

It is a complete misrepresentation to say it "would require an amendment to the Constitution" to control guns. The Constitution is not some magical document that prevents the United States from regulating deadly weapons. We have all sorts of restrictions on gun ownership in the US. We can have more too, and have in the past. It's a give and take in the courts, with various avenues for constitutional arguments.

The problem is it requires legislative action to regulate guns, and Congress has been in the thrall of the gun lobby. And yes, it will take a fight in the courts. But the idea the Constitution strictly forbids any gun control is a deliberate lie told to you by NRA and other lobbyists who place the profits of a few gun manufacturers over a sane rule of law.
posted by Nelson at 1:32 PM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

[Folks, maybe let's bring this back around to the actual link, rather than having the same generic gun control argument for the thousandth time.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:35 PM on December 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Fast-acting Utah parents disarmed their teen son at school, preventing a possible tragedy
posted by hydropsyche at 12:30 PM on December 3 [+] [!]

These are very good examples of this not going wrong.
posted by chavenet at 2:00 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

As a high school teacher this "ad" makes some sense to me, but only if it's designed for me and my fellow teachers as a reminder to keep your eyes wide open and look for the signs. I mean it is our job to make sure that the kid writing the shooter or vampire or the whatever-fantasy-violence-romp is okay. (I've read a lot of them and it's my job to know the writer and suss it out and be a bit of a dick if I'm not sure, because a teacher is paid to be a bit of a dick sometimes, for the good of everyone else involved.) It doesn't have to be much, and it doesn't have to be crisis-invoking, but it has to be genuine and perceptive. And if I get any sense that the kid is hiding something, I'm being negligent if I don't make note of it to my school guidance counsellor and administrator. That's the reality if high school these days.

Canadian teacher Kevin Cameron, who was involved with the Taber shooting in Alberta (8 days after Columbine), has developed a Threat-Risk protocol that many Canadian schools use to help us see signs and communicate with one another, so the gun-obsessed kid gets noticed and helped before he becomes a shooter. So yeah, I think for the general public this kind of ad is fear-inducing and finger-wagging and not all that necessary (in addition to be a manipulative piece of tripe), but as a reminder to teachers and other educational professionals who find it easy to pay attention to the pretty kids who fall in love (even when they deface the furniture - which I, for one, enjoy reading on my desks as it can help to see where the kids are at) and live the typical, mildly alienated, north american dream (trance), it could be useful.

I might show it to a class on Monday and ask them what they think. I'm guessing they'll tell me that it's mostly just a manipulative thing that's more likely to further alienate adults from young people, than have them understand the complexity of the world kids live in, and respond to them in a constructive, non-alienating way.
posted by kneecapped at 2:03 PM on December 3, 2016 [11 favorites]

Yeah, I too see it mostly directed towards the adults. I don't think anyone within education could or would imagine teens being responsible for observing strange or worrying behavior among their peers. As I see it, the point is that most librarians/professors/janitors would focus on the evil of vandalizing the desk, and not notice the danger of using school infrastructure to access gun fanfics.
And thus seeing myself as target audience, I was moved, and I would definitely show this to my colleagues if I felt it was relevant. There has never, ever been a school shooting in Denmark (knocks on wood), but there have been other situations where troubled students have caused significant damage, and I have struggled to get my colleagues to take responsibility. Just a few days ago we had the discussion: J is disruptive in the sense that he is always late and clearly using marihuana. Some colleagues felt he should be expelled. N is doing all the right things, but also gaslighting some of his fellow students in a way that is subtle and impossible to document, but which is extremely harmful to the majority of students. We all feel we need to do something, but have no idea what.
J would never be dangerous. I don't think N could become a school shooter, but I think he could manipulate someone to become a shooter. What should I do? What should we do?
posted by mumimor at 4:25 PM on December 3, 2016

Oddly enough, I noticed the magazine, the youtube video and the social media link and even the in hall bullying. What I missed was him flipping off the girl. I'm not sure if I add noticed that if it would have been enough.

I mean, I've always prescribed to the Will Wheaton philosophy of 'Don't be a dick', but is it realistic to imply that everyone should start off their Library period by going around and making sure no one is an unhinged shooter?
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:14 PM on December 3, 2016

... is it realistic to imply that everyone should start off their Library period by going around and making sure no one is an unhinged shooter?

No. Not even recommended. But should I be with-it and present enough to notice a pattern of behaviour over the days, weeks, months, I'm in front of a student. Yes. And I should address it when I see a pattern, and share this with my colleagues. If dots are to be connected, people have to know that the dots exist. I don't think identifying or connecting the dots is being a dick.
posted by kneecapped at 5:30 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

This ad is bullshit. As mentioned above by several others, these "signs"-- sitting by yourself listening to music (YES! whether or not you are reading a gun magazine), being randomly bullied, making a gun gesture-- are bullshit.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 6:00 PM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

My school has suffered a number of tragedies lately, and as a staff we've been discussing how to prevent the next one. One thing that's become apparent is how frequently adults noticed a tiny thing off but it was so small nobody felt it merited an escalation. The signs were small-scale level stuff that was on display in the video (in fact it was the "alone in the cafeteria" scene that initially pinged my sensors and that one wasn't even in the replay), and our building support staff is already so overworked that "made a dark joke in class" didn't seem to rise to the level of needs intervention. Then when we all sit together after the funeral it turns out several people each noticed their own tiny thing.

Our community is reckoning now with how much we believe in "if you see something, say something." Teenagers gonna teenage, and every kid has their dramatic periods of listening to moody music alone in the library, dark humor/threatening jokes, mild bullying (most kids both give and receive), and wildly inappropriate social media--that doesn't mean they're going to hurt themselves or others. I know when I was a teenager I would have been mortified if someone took my angst seriously, so I really respect that desire for privacy as kids work through their stuff. But we've also learned, painfully so, that the teenagers who are most at risk of doing something awful are the ones are the most adept at hiding it. Sometimes a tiny, cliche sign is all they show.

In the last few months we've been better about informally passing on names to each other of students that might be developing a crisis or in one already. Honestly I wish we'd done it earlier, but it's hard to carve out times for after-hours meetings. 95% of the situations brought up are nothing, but 5% is still a lot of kids. And while I don't think any of us would be able to identify specific signs of "this student is planning a school shooting", lots of stuff in that video could signal suicidal thoughts or trouble at home, and those situations are super-common. And so while school shootings are pretty rare, if this video prods people to go talk to that kid who's always alone then I think it's a really important PSA.
posted by lilac girl at 8:16 PM on December 3, 2016 [9 favorites]

I think people need to see the ad as a gimmick that makes you think "sometimes we miss the more general picture" when it comes to school violence, instead of a literal demonstration on how we fail to do so.

That said, I wrote a "Modest Proposal" influenced essay about how to handle low performing students in the 10th grade, and now my permanent record has the phrase "something the new Hitler would write" in it. Well, my guidance counselor said it did, and I am taking her word for it.

This happened a couple years pre-Columbine, so I just got the Hitler comment yelled at me. If it happened after Colimbine, I'd probably still be in prison.
posted by sideshow at 8:18 PM on December 3, 2016

I should add: nope, I didn't turn into the "New Hitler". I just learned that adults are ridiculous and being "clever" is usually a bad idea.
posted by sideshow at 8:20 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

When Evan wrote "I'm bored" and the other person answered "Hi bored" I was like OH NO EVAN STOP YOU ARE CONDUCTING A SECRET ROMANCE WITH YOUR OWN DAD
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:38 PM on December 3, 2016 [17 favorites]

In the last few months we've been better about informally passing on names

Is this in addition to established Child Protection structures?

I'm from a different country, but here each school has a dedicated member of staff to whom we're supposed to take all of our 'this-is-probably-nothing-but...' concerns. This is a government requirement. There needs to be a designated person in every school who gets this information so they can be doing pattern recognition.

My school is good about upwards flow of this kind of information. I've submitted 'this-is-probably-nothing-but...'s about kids being too unkempt, too chatty, too self-aggrandising and too well-behaved. I was always taken seriously and made to feel like I was adding something valuable to the child welfare process, no matter how busy the point person was or how vague my concerns.

Downward flow of information is a little trickier. It's important to respect the privacy of kids and their families, which means not sharing more widely than necessary the information about who's going through a messy divorce, who's had their water turned off, whose parent is in hospital or in prison, etc. On the other hand, it's often useful information for people who interact with the kid to have and sharing it can prevent the unnecessary duplication of reporting. So the decision has to be made about what gets shared with the kid's teachers and what gets disseminated to supply teachers, lunch staff, librarians, custodians and receptionists.

The things we're supposed to be watching for are stuff like abuse, neglect, grooming, radicalisation, FGM and so on rather than gun violence, but I figured the processes would be the same. There's no point in having mandatory reporter laws if there's no step in between informing social services on the one hand and information being withheld or at least badly aggregated because it's 'probably-nothing' on the other.
posted by the latin mouse at 5:15 AM on December 4, 2016

Then I thought it was probably going to turn out to be a guy he was communicating with.

Thought this for about two seconds, then considered it was probably too cliché (or not noteworthy enough) for 2016. So then I thought he had multiple personality disorder and was writing to himself. (Also cliché, but MPD seems to be timeless as an overworn plot device.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:17 AM on December 4, 2016

That kid's not a loner. He got 56 likes on his gun selfie. I've never gotten that many likes on anything.

I should add: nope, I didn't turn into the "New Hitler".

You're still young.
posted by riruro at 9:48 AM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed the ad, agree that the "signs" are extremely weak, and completely missed the gorilla.
posted by rokusan at 1:57 AM on December 5, 2016

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