A high school teacher in California accidentally fired a gun in a class full of students during a demonstration on gun safety Tuesday afternoon.
Dennis Alexander, a long time teacher, a former Peace Corps volunteer, involved in scores of community-based programs as a volunteer, a reserve police officer, teaches his math class in Spanish, and is Mayor Pro Tem of the city of Seaside, apologized to his students and was then placed on leave following the incident.
1. California Teacher Dennis Alexander Fired a Gun Accidentally in a Law Enforcement Class
Seaside High School teacher Dennis Alexander fired a gun during his ‘Administration of Justice’ class in Sand City, California Tuesday afternoon. Alexander was demonstrating how to handle a gun safely when it fired.
Under California law, teachers are not permitted to be armed. Alexander is a reserve police officer for the Sand City Police Department and while had a permit for the gun, it’s illegal for him to possess much less handle it, especially loaded, in a classroom.
Alexander was showing the teens how to disarm someone and had the gun pointed up when it went off hitting the ceiling, shattering a section and pieces fell to the floor.
2. Police Said There Were No Serious Injuries , But 3 Students Were Hurt
The Seaside Police Department said there were no “serious injuries” in the incident. But a father told local media he and his wife were shocked when their 17-year-old son came home from school with blood on his shirt and shell fragments in his neck. The father, Fermin Gonzalez said his son was hurt when fragments flew after the bullet ricocheted off the ceiling and embedded in his son’s neck. The parents took the teen to the hospital but were angered that neither school officials nor police notified them of the incident or their son’s injuries. The family filed a police report.
3. Alexander Was Placed on Administrative Leave From the Sand City Police Department
The chief of police told local media he had “concerns” about why Alexander had a loaded firearm in the school, which is prohibited and then fired it, albeit accidentally, in a classroom of kids.
Sand City Police Chief Brian Ferrante told local TV news station KSBW he’d be “looking into that.”
4. The Superintendent Said Parents Are Question ‘Why a Teacher Would Be Pointing a Load Firearm at the Ceiling in Front of Students’
“I think a lot of questions on parents’ minds are, why a teacher would be pointing a loaded firearm at the ceiling in front of students,” Monterey Peninsula Unified School District Superintendent PK Diffenbaugh said, to state the obvious, parents are likely concerned about why a teacher would point a loaded firearm at a ceiling in a room full of students.
Ironically perhaps, the school district posted a school safety symposium salted for next week on its Facebook page Monday but posted nothing about the incident at Seaside and the high school did not post anything on its homepage that was visible or on its Facebook page.
Tuesday Diffenbaugh sent a letter to parents and posted on the district website: “We want to make you aware of an accident that occurred in the Administration of Justice class today at Seaside High School. As some of you may know, the teacher is a reserve police officer. Today, during class, the teacher accidentally discharged his firearm during a lesson while it was pointed at the ceiling. Debris from the ceiling then fell. Upon learning of the incident, our Human Resources department, school site administration and the Seaside Police Department immediately began investigating the incident, including interviewing students in the class. We will also have counseling services available for students. Due to the nature of this personnel incident, we are unable to share any other details. The teacher has been placed on administrative leave for the duration of the on-going investigation. The safety of your student is always our top priority, and we will continue to remain vigilant in our efforts to keep them safe while they are under our care.”
5. Alexander, Seaside City Councilor Mayor Pro Tem, Decorated Reserve Police, Math Teacher & Volunteer, Has Both Supporters & Detractors, the Latter Are Against Guns in Schools
Former student Ev Valle defended his teacher: “Mr Alexander was one of the best teachers I had at Seaside High. Really hope he can go back to teaching after this (even if this was a completely dumb move). Don’t even want to read the comments on KSBW TV Action News 8’s page because this guy has contributed more to his community than some rando spitting garbage on Facebook.
Alexander has served as a reserve officer for more than a decade and was named Reserve Officer of the Year in 2013 by the California Reserve Peace Officers Association for heroics during the course of duty, Ferrante told local media that Alexander, who has a history of positive professionalism. Alexander is also a Seaside City Council member who teaches mathematics in Spanish.
But some argue this is a prime example of why not to arm educators. Michael Wells posted on Facebook, “Another for the ‘This arming teachers thing is a really bad idea’ files. And this guy was a trained reserve police officer. He planned to teach his students how to disarm someone and fired the gun at the ceiling to make sure it wasn’t loaded… yes, seriously. Because using anything besides a gun wouldn’t have been as effective I guess and the best way to unload a gun is to shoot it in a class full of kids.
“This guy is a cop! His gun went off. Explain to me how we’re supposed to trust all teachers with weapons in the class! BTW…there was a police officer in Seaside during my years there. He NEVER took his firearm out. We didn’t even know if he had it with him.”