[Jan. 2017 Features] Sandy Hook Promise video “Evan” provides insight to signs of at-risk behavior

By Molly Mahoney ’18


An online video depicts two teenagers developing a secret romance without ever meeting.  The boy scrawls “I am bored” on a desk in the library, and the next day, he finds a response written in playful cursive handwriting: “Hi bored, nice to meet you.”  They continue to write secret messages back and forth as guitar music strums in the background.  Then, abruptly, rapid gunfire and shrill screams echo in the gymnasium. Silence and blackness cut the scene short.

The viral video, entitled “Evan,” comes from Sandy Hook Promise, an organization spearheaded by mourning parents directly following the 2012 Newtown school shooting. The group’s mission, according to their website, is to “prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide and accidental discharge so that no other parent experiences the senseless, horrific loss of their child.”

Kayla Bilotti ’18, co-founder of the Social Activism Club, was deeply moved by the video.

“It was incredibly eerie and powerful to see a school so much like ours represented,”  Bilotti said.

This particular Sandy Hook Promise release advocates the development of mental health and wellness programs that “identify, intervene and help at-risk individuals,” as opposed to focusing on firearm legislation.

After the initial blackout, the video continues and flashes back through the scenes the audience had just watched, but this time spotlights the warning signs of a planned shooting that were exhibited by another  student featured  in  the  background.

“Evan,” with more than 7 million hits, was viewed, liked and shared by countless Staples students upon its release.

Linda McClary, child development teacher and Newtown resident, mused, “I think [the video] has made a difference in terms of its impact on young people. On you guys.”

But the tragedy of Sandy Hook continues to impact school policy as well.  

“The issue is not just preventing gun violence, but improving our ability to have everyone feel heard and supported in school,” Principal James D’Amico said. “You can see this reflected in a couple of points of our Guiding Principles, especially our goals to be socially and emotionally aware, and, perhaps more importantly, kind.”

D’Amico also pointed out that Staples staff have undergone training to notice warning signs in teenagers. “Teachers, staff members and students will often bring concerning behaviors to our attention, and we are extraordinarily fortunate to have tremendous resources to help students, especially our school counselors, psychologists and social workers,”  D’Amico said.

McClary, however, questioned the effectiveness  of her training in deciphering warning signs since she  failed to notice the warning signs in the first segment of the video. “How much are we missing in [students’] lives?” McClary asked. “I’ll bet you we’re missing a lot. How can a child last year commit suicide? How can that happen? Where were the supports for this kid? Where were all of us in recognizing the signs?”