In the Wake of a School Shooting; Targets or Backpacks?

A look into Central Visual Performing Arts High School and where they are now.

Senior Mikayla Sanders of Central Visual Performing Arts High School (CVPA) experienced the tragedy that killed both student Alexandria Bell and teacher Jean Kuczka who each died of a single gunshot wound.

On Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, Sanders was in her Teacher’s Aid period, which was gym. She reported that around 9:10 a.m. was when she heard the first screams, just before a security guard ran into the gym yelling for them to go under lockdown protocol. The students piled into the only locker room that was locked with their gym teacher, coach Heather Kristof, and began to hide. Sanders felt shocked and scared, as her little cousin also went to the school, and she could not get in contact with him. 

“I was standing around trying to make sure that everyone was quiet. At some point after the fire alarm went off someone came banging on the door. This is when I began to cry because I was truly scared that this might be it for me,” Sanders said.

Sanders tried to comfort the underclassmen. She held their hands and sent texts to her family, also lending her phone to others who did not have one, but struggled to keep herself together – an unreasonable ask of anyone. When she began to hear sirens, it confirmed the feeling that this was serious. It was real.

At around 9:30 a.m., the police came in to get them out of the locker room. As the students ran out, they stepped over trails of blood and moved through the exit while Sander believed the shooter was still in the building. They ran up the hill to the local Schnucks where they would be safe. Sanders frantically pushed through the crowd looking for her friends and little cousin. Once she had found her cousin, his mom took them home. 

Sanders later found out that the screams she heard came from Alexandria Bell, the young student who died on the scene.

CVPA canceled school for about a month after the shooting. When the students came back, they had support dogs, the bells were turned off, therapists/counselors were available to the students in the hall, and they had half days for the first couple of weeks back. Except, this is not a solution. This is not how to stop gun violence. Change needs to be made regarding gun laws and restrictions, or this cycle of pain and violence will not stop.

According to a KMOV report, the shooter had a note in his car that read “I Don’t have any friends, I don’t have any family, I’ve never had a girlfriend, I’ve never had a social life, I’ve been an isolated loner my entire life. This was the perfect storm for a mass shooting.”

The shooter, Orlando Harris, reportedly had an AR-15 style rifle with over 600 rounds of ammunition. 

As the second month of the new year ends, children, teenagers, adults and older people have already experienced seven school shootings. If that does not sound like a lot, there have been 151 school shootings since 2018. This does not include mass shootings, which there already have been 71 these past two months. 

The reality is, gun reform must happen. If we do not make changes now, students and others will continue to die as a result of gun violence. In order to manage this, there are some things that can be done. The Prevention Institute has a few guidelines that would help alleviate this violence. 

  1. Reduce easy access to guns.
  2. Establish gun safety.
  3. Reduce firearm access to youth.
  4. Ensure that those who purchase a gun go through proper training.
  5. Mental health background checks.

While these guidelines may seem heavy for some purchasing a gun; I think, rather, we should consider whether it is heavy or not for someone to lose their child, grandparent, sibling or parents to gun violence. 

Some other laws in place or are being pushed to prevent gun violence are red-flag laws. Red-flag laws are laws that “prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm”. As of now, only 19 states have this law. Despite these states having such laws, it is found that they do not act on the law like they should. According to the Associated Press, Chicago has had “8,500 shootings resulting in 1,800 deaths since 2020;” red-flag laws were enforced only four times. These laws have been proven to work when enforced, they just need to be enforced. 

It should not be up to discussion on whether or not the government should take steps towards protecting its people. People are becoming immune to the news of mass and school shootings – how? How has it gotten to the point where the mass murdering of people and children is now simply a blink away to the next attention-grabbing article?

As Sanders said, “after the shooting it [the school] kind of just felt like a shell of what it used to be.”