SEASIDE, Calif. — A teacher who also serves as a reserve police officer accidentally fired a gun inside a Seaside High School classroom Tuesday, police said, and three students were injured.
Dennis Alexander was teaching a course about gun safety for his Administration of Justice class when his gun went off at 1:20 p.m.
Alexander was pointing his gun at the ceiling when it fired. Pieces of the ceiling fell to the ground.
A news release from the Seaside Police Department said no one suffered “serious injuries.” One 17-year-old boy suffered moderate injuries when fragments from the bullet ricocheted off the ceiling and lodged into his neck, the student’s father, Fermin Gonzales, told KSBW.
The teacher had just told the class that he wanted to make sure his gun wasn’t loaded, when the gun fired, according to Gonzales.
“It’s the craziest thing. It could have been very bad,” Gonzales said.
The teacher was about to use the gun for a demonstration about how to disarm someone, according to Gonzales.
Everyone in the classroom was stunned, and the teacher, who is a reserve officer for the Sand City Police Department, apologized.
But no one at the school checked to make sure that all of the students were uninjured, Gonzales said. The school day resumed as normal, and Seaside Police Department officers launched an investigation.
The 17-year-old boy’s parents were shocked when he returned home with blood on his shirt and bullet fragments in his neck. The student’s parents rushed him to a hospital for X-rays.
“He’s shaken up, but he’s going to be OK,” Gonzales told KSBW. “I’m just pretty upset that no one told us anything and we had to call the police ourselves to report it.”
Alexander was placed on administrative leave from his teaching position at Seaside High School, and he was also placed on administrative leave at the Sand City Police Department.
Sand City Police Chief Brian Ferrante told KSBW, “I have concerns about why he was displaying a loaded firearm in a classroom. We will be looking into that.”
Ferrante said Alexander has been a reserve Sand City police officer for the past 11 years, and described his track record as “positive and professional.” The 2013 Reserve Officer of the Year is also a Seaside City Council member and Red Cross volunteer. KSBW interviewed Alexander in 2015 while he was volunteering for the Red Cross to help victims of the Tassajara Fire.
Teachers are not legally allowed to have firearms in California classrooms, even if they have a concealed carry permit.
Whether to arm teachers with guns on campus to make American schools safer has been a fiery question politically over the past few weeks, following a mass shooting at a Florida high school.
Thousands of students are planning to walk out of their classrooms Wednesday to raise awareness about gun violence and school safety.
One KSBW Facebook fan remarked about the Seaside incident, “This is clear example why teachers shouldn’t have a gun. Accidents happen, even to people with experience.”
Another Facebook fan quipped, “Oh great.. .Ya let’s give ALL the teachers guns. What could possibly go wrong?”
Students who take Alexander’s Administration of Justice class are interested in public safety and becoming a police officer.
“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. “Clearly in this incident protocols were not followed.”
The Superintendent’s Office sent a letter to parents reading: “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.”