Change the Ref

The Lost Class

A graduation ceremony for the students who didn’t make it to graduation because of a gun.

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Change the Ref

The Lost Class

After every school shooting, conversation around gun control reform peaks and then quickly fades.

Partnering with Change the Ref, a nonprofit founded by Manuel and Patricia Oliver, whose 17-year-old son, Joaquin, was killed in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, we set out to generate a longer discussion and, we hope, lead to action.

Every June, millions of students graduate high school. It’s a time where families celebrate and honor the potential of every student. But with school shootings continuing to be an epidemic in the U.S., many students don’t make it to graduation day because of a gun.

To call for change in universal background checks legislation, we created a film in which former NRA President David Keene gives a graduation speech to 3,044 empty chairs, each representing a student who would have graduated in 2021 if they hadn’t been killed by a gun. To pull this off, we created James Madison Academy, a fake online high school named after the author of the Second Amendment.

Although Keene thinks he’s rehearsing his speech, but he’s actually speaking in front of The Lost Class.

The goal behind “The Lost Class” is to make meaningful progress. There’s a long way to go, of course. But we’re hopeful that this campaign’s ongoing reach—250M impressions, a full segment on The Rachel Maddow Show, 41,000 signatures in support of a petition on Change.org demanding universal background checks, and recognition from award shows that keeps “The Lost Class” discussion going—helps get us to the gun control reform we so badly need.

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