Berkeley High School investigates teacher for bringing historic bazooka to class

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Xiaoye Yan/File

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A Berkeley High School history teacher was put on administrative leave after he brought a decommissioned bazooka to show his students.

According to Anaya Taylor, a BHS sophomore, the historic bazooka was brought by teacher Alex Angell for display purposes only. Taylor added that most students are angered that Angell was placed on leave and hope their teacher will soon return to their class. They are currently being taught by a substitute teacher.

“It was an artifact that was displayed for our benefit,” Taylor said. “I didn’t feel threatened.”

A video was taken by students showing the teacher holding the weapon over his shoulder in order to demonstrate its use. According to Berkeleyside, the video was taken April 10 and was posted on social media but has since been removed.

Charles Burress, the spokesperson for BUSD, said in an email that the school is in the “midst of an investigation.” Burress added that the district is not able to provide detailed information about the case until it has confirmed all of the facts. Additionally, confidentiality regulations prevent him from speaking on the reasons or conditions of the leave.

“Because we have not completed our investigation, we have not reached a conclusion about whether any policies have been violated in this case,” Burress said in the email.

According to Berkeleyside, BHS Vice Principal Felicia Phillips said in an email to parents that Angell will not be on campus until further notice and grades will not be affected during his absence.

Angell could not be reached for comment as of press time.

The incident comes at a time when weapons in schools are a controversial issue across the country. Last month, BHS students joined a walkout in honor of the victims of the Parkland shooting. According to Berkeleyside, local students are planning to participate in the “National Day of Action Against Gun Violence in School” this Friday.

Lexie Tesch, a BHS sophomore and a student in Angell’s world history class, said Angell is well-loved by his students. She added that Angell is her favorite teacher at the school and that she is always excited to go to his class.

“He is very interesting, and the way that he teaches is very different,” Tesch said. “He calls himself a storyteller. And the way he teaches really makes you understand.”

Students also expressed concerns about the timing of Angell being put on administrative leave. With Advanced Placement exams coming up, Angell will not be able to prepare students for the exams.

Tesch added that she finds it “ridiculous” that the the teacher is being suspended.

“It was a historical artifact and he had no intention of hurting anyone,” Tesch said. “He just really cares about his students.”

Contact Isabella Sabri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @isabella_sabri.