The Patrick Henry Post

Special Edition: In the Face of Tragedy, We Find Community

The Events of October 24th, 2022

On Monday, October 24th, 2022, a tragedy struck St. Louis Public Schools unlike any that we have ever experienced before: an active shooter entered Central Visual and Performing Arts High School and opened fire on the school community. The shooter was a former student of Central VPA, a 19-year old who graduated last year. There were two victims in this shooting who lost their lives, Ms. Jean Kuczka, the PE and Health Teacher at Central VPA, and Alexandria Bell, a 16-year old sophomore student who attended Central VPA. There were also victims in this shooting who were injured with gunshot wounds and shrapnel, but their names have not been released yet. The former student entered the building and though he was able to shoot, SLPS Security and St. Louis Police Department were on the scene within minutes to contain the threat. Because of their fast action, many lives were saved. The shooter was disarmed and later lost his life as well.

Please click here to read the full account from various news sources:

The Response from St. Louis Public Schools

As this tragedy was unfolding, SLPS notified all elementary, middle, and high schools of the safety concerns at Central VPA and Collegiate. Out of an abundance of precaution, Patrick Henry and all SLPS schools went on a modified lockdown. This meant we remained indoors with our students, kept all exterior doors locked, and utilized our intercom system rather than buzzing anyone in through the doors to pick up their children. We also used an alternative dismissal system that allowed students to remain in the classrooms until their parent came to pick them up, and then they were escorted outside by a staff member.

The district provided immediate safety for the students evacuated from Central VPA and Collegiate, and they also set up immediate counseling support for those students, staff, and family members who were impacted by the trauma. See below for resources:

We Honor Ms. Kuczka

Ms. Jean Kuczka was a beloved PE and Health Teacher at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School. Ms. Kuczka was a mother of three daughters and two sons. She loved to cycle, and she participated in charity bike rides every year. She taught Physical Education, Health, and Personal Finance at Central VPA, and she also coached Cross Country and Collegiate High School.

Ms. Kuczka lost her life trying to protect her students, and we will never forget her sacrifice.

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We Honor Alexandria Bell

Alexandria Bell was a 16-year old sophomore at Central VPA. She loved art and dance, and she was a member of Central's Junior Varsity Dance Team. Alexandria's friends agreed that she was the type of person who was always smiling, and her teachers said she was a passionate person who brought that out in her dancing.

Alexandria lost her life because of a senseless act of violence, and we will never forget her beautiful personality and spirit.

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When Tragedy Strikes, We Find Community

During this unthinkable tragedy, there are so many thoughts, emotions, and reactions. Some people do not feel connected to these events, while others feel a deep connection. Our reactions can be different, but it does not mean that one person's reaction is right and another person's reaction is wrong. We all process information differently, and we all need to be able to process in our own way and in our own time. The most important thing we can do during this tragedy is to lean on one another for support. This is a collective tragedy, which means we are all in this together. This happened to our school district community, and it impacts all of us - students, teachers, staff, parents, neighbors, community partners, leaders. Take a look below for some common reactions and what we can do next.

If you feel scared, worried, anxious, or fearful...

  • Share your feelings with someone you trust
  • Call the Disaster Distress Helpline. A disaster event such as this is unexpected and often brings out strong emotions. People can call or text the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline’s toll-free number (1–800–985–5990) and receive immediate counseling. This free, confidential, multilingual crisis support service is available to anyone experiencing distress as a result of a disaster. People who call and text are connected to trained, caring professionals from crisis counseling centers in the network. Helpline staff provide confidential counseling, referrals, and other needed support services.
  • Check out: Tips for Survivors: Coping With Grief After a Disaster or Traumatic Event—In this tip sheet, SAMHSA defines and describes grief, discusses ways of coping with grief, and explains complicated or traumatic grief. The tip sheet also offers relevant resources for additional support:
  • Check out: The Impact of Disaster and Mass Violence Events on Mental Health—Intended for mental health and substance use disorder treatment professionals, this online article from the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) summarizes research on common reactions to disasters. The article identifies common reactions in disaster-affected communities and describes how reactions increase and decrease in communities over time, as well as highlighting risk factors for longer term reactions:

If you don't know how you really feel...

  • Ask trusted people in your life how they feel and ask them to help you process together

If you feel like you need help...

  • Share your feelings and thoughts with someone you trust
  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline—The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a source of support available 24/7 to people in crisis, including people experiencing challenging reactions to disasters. Call 988 for support or visit:
  • Call ALM Hopewell: 866-376-0962
  • Call BJC Behavioral Health: 314-747-7412
  • Call Places for People: 800-811-4760
  • Behavioral Health Response (BHR) Youth Connection helpline: 844-985-8282 or text BHEARD to 31658
  • Provident Behavioral Health 314-533-8200
  • Family Forward 314-534-9350
  • Care and Counseling 314-878-4340
  • Lutheran Family and Children’s Services 314-787-5100
  • Youth In Need Counseling services - “Clients must be youth under 19-years-old who live or attend school in St. Louis, St. Charles or Lincoln Counties. All counseling services are provided at no cost.” 314-594-5010 in St. Louis County

If you know someone else who needs help...

  • Ask trusted people in your life for help and tell them why you think this person needs help

If you are a parent and your child needs help...

  • Coping after Mass Violence—Written for parents and families, this National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) tip sheet provides information about common reactions to mass violence and self-care tips for those living in communities where an incident of mass violence has taken place. The tip sheet also includes external resources for individuals seeking further support.
  • Parent Guidelines for Helping Youth after the Recent Shooting—In this 3-page tip sheet released shortly after a shooting, the NCTSN describes how such an event may affect children and teens as well as parents and other caregivers. The tip sheet lists reactions common among people of all ages, offers coping tips for caregivers, and suggests ways for caregivers to support children and youth in talking about and managing their reactions.

This resource is available in Spanish at