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Teacher admits to secretly photographing female students for years, letter states

The Glendale Unified School District said a Clark Magnet High School teacher admitted to secretly taking inappropriate photos of female students for several years, according to a letter obtained in a public records request.

Cynthia Foley, the district’s assistant superintendent in charge of human resources, said in the four-page letter that Christian Axelgard admitted to taking voyeuristic photos and videos of his physical-education students beginning in August 2016.

His admission came as he was under investigation for inappropriate behavior toward female students.

Foley said in the letter that 60-year-old Axelgard told her he “had a history of taking pictures/videos of female students.”

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Read the letter from school officials to Axelgard with the findings of their investigation »

He would also secretly take shots of girls while they waited in line at the school cafeteria or standing in the hallway with friends.

His actions were an apparent open secret among students.

“During student interviews, students shared [his] behavior was known among students, and students commented this made them feel extremely uncomfortable,” Foley said in the letter.

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Axelgard created an “intimidating, hostile or offensive educational environment” because of his conduct, according to the letter.

Glendale Unified officials first became aware of his conduct last November when several girls reported him to administrators after they noticed Axelgard taking photographs of them while they were doing push-ups in class.

He was immediately placed on paid administrative leave while the district conducted an investigation into the claims.

In addition to his admission, the letter said officials searched Axelgard’s personal cellphone and found multiple photographs of female students including pictures focused on girls’ breasts and buttocks.

The district also found security camera footage from the school that captured him trying to secretly record students by holding his phone closely to his chest, according to the letter.

Axelgard would reportedly use the photos and videos for his own sexual gratification, according to the Glendale Police Department.

He was arrested by police in January and was charged with two misdemeanor counts of unlawfully annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18.

He has denied the charges.

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If convicted, he would be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

His teaching credential would also be revoked by the state.

Axelgard is not expected to return to teaching, and Foley said in the letter the district had enough evidence to fire him.

Before district officials could begin the process of firing him, and rather than resigning from his position, Axelgard opted to retire early — a move Glendale Unified’s school board approved on March 12.

His retirement from the district will start on May 31, and he is scheduled to appear in court on June 20 for a pretrial hearing.

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