P.E. Teacher Christian Axelgard accused of inappropriately taking pictures of students

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P.E. Teacher Christian Axelgard accused of inappropriately taking pictures of students

Axelgard had been teaching at Clark since 1999.

Axelgard had been teaching at Clark since 1999.

Publications Staff

Axelgard had been teaching at Clark since 1999.

Publications Staff

Publications Staff

Axelgard had been teaching at Clark since 1999.

Carlos Rodriguez, Website Editor

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Upon learning that Clark Magnet Physical Education teacher Christian Axelgard had been arrested for inappropriately taking pictures of the students whom he taught, students reacted with both disgust as well as shock, with some not being surprised by the news.

A sophomore who declined to give her name said that she and other students found it off putting when he would place his hand on their shoulders during conversation. “He would always touch girls’ shoulders in a weird way when talking to them, and it just sort of gave off a creepy vibe,” she said.

A freshman who did not wish to give her name said that she and other students felt vulnerable due to the situation and thought that it detracted from the school’s image. “It makes students feel unsafe in a school that they have been attending for a long time or have just started attending,” she said. “It doesn’t give a good impression of Clark.”

Students at Clark first heard about the situation in March when it became public knowledge that a student had recorded video of Axelgard taking pictures and/or video of a student while she was doing an exercise.

Axelgard was charged on March 1 with two misdemeanor counts of “unlawfully annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18,” according to the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles website. If convicted, he faces mandatory lifetime registration as a sex offender and will have his teaching credential revoked.

According to Glendale Police Department Sgt. Dan Suttles, Axelgard took pictures of students while he taught his classes as well as while students were walking in the hallways, yet exactly how long he had been doing so is unknown. Axelgard had been teaching at Clark since 1999.

A four-page, hand-delivered letter to Christian Axelgard by GUSD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Cynthia M. Foley, obtained by the Los Angeles Times via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, details that Axelgard had been taking the voyeuristic photos of students since August 2016 until November 2018. The letter further reports that Axelgard had been taking pictures of students’ chests and buttocks, and that said pictures were found on his personal cell phone when it was searched.

Moreover, Dr. Foley’s letter to Axelgard states that a thorough analysis of surveillance camera footage showed Axelgard holding his phone near his chest with the camera application open, with the camera itself facing female students in the cafeteria line at Clark. It also notes that Axelgard himself confessed to Dr. Foley his taking photos and videos of students, and that he admitted to having done so since 2016.

Axelgard was arrested in November 2018 by the Glendale Police Department. He turned himself in on Jan. 15 but was released via bail on the same day. The Superior Court of California, Los Angeles website, which provides public access to certain court records, states his bail to have been $20,000.

According to these public court records, he pled not guilty on March 1 during his arraignment date. While his pretrial hearing was set to occur on April 3, a new court date was set for May 3.

Due to his alleged actions, Axelgard was put on administrative leave and ordered to stay away from GUSD schools. Lane Barchan has been hired as a long-term substitute teacher to teach Axelgard’s classes for the rest of the school year.

GUSD Communications Director Kristine Nam reiterated the District’s official statement on the situation and how it is being handled, which makes note of the work that the Glendale Police Department has done in conducting its investigation. “GUSD is cooperating fully with law enforcement as they complete their investigation. The teacher has remained on administrative leave and away from the schools while law enforcement completes their investigation and the District conducts its own review,” the statement read.

Once the investigation has been completed, Axelgard will no longer be able to teach if convicted, as he will lose his teaching credential. He has a Single Subject Teaching Credential, issued in 1986, which allows him to teach Introductory Health Science and Physical Education. Axelgard’s credential is currently in non disciplinary suspension, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

If found guilty, he will also be put on the sex offender registry. Each of the two counts that he faces can result in up to one year in the county jail and a $5,000 court fine.