What happened yesterday at a high school in the small Central Coast city of Seaside, California, would have raised eyebrows in any event. But in the context of the president’s NRA-endorsed proposal to train and arm school teachers, and today’s nationwide School Walkout to protest gun violence in schools, the Seaside story got national attention right away.
High school teacher and reserve police officer Dennis Alexander was doing a demonstration of how to disarm an assailant in his “administration of justice” class at Seaside High when his handgun discharged, firing a bullet into the classroom ceiling. Falling debris from the accident inflicted minor injuries on three students. It could have been much worse, of course.
California state law requires a special authorization for anyone to bring a firearm onto public school property. Alexander did not have that authorization. He’s been placed on administrative leave by the school district, and also by the nearby municipal police force on which he was a decorated reserve officer.
What makes the incident even more striking is that Alexander is a member (and currently mayor pro tem) of the (non-partisan) Seaside City Council, first elected in 2006. He’s also a former Peace Corps volunteer, a long-time community activist, and in general not a gun-nutty sort of guy, so far as we can tell. He’s very likely not a MAGA fan, either; aside from holding elected office in a very Democratic portion of a very Democratic Monterey County, Alexander’s main gig at Seaside High is teaching math in Spanish (the school’s student body is 89 percent minority).
But fairly or not, Alexander will probably become a figure of mockery and scorn to those who are fighting Trump’s arm-the-teachers proposal. After all, if a trained police officer winds up endangering his students with a handgun, how safe should parents feel about teachers who are not professional law enforcement folk packing heat? It’s a valid question.
Meanwhile, the local school district is being somewhat supportive of the planned walkout. But the sound of yesterday’s gunshot may echo for a good while.