Crime

Atascadero teacher accused of making child porn is out of jail and receiving pay

Atascadero Academy of Fine Arts teacher Chris Berdoll could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of all the charges against him.
Atascadero Academy of Fine Arts teacher Chris Berdoll could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of all the charges against him. San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office

An Atascadero teacher accused of taking sexually explicit videos of girls at his school was released from jail on Tuesday but is still collecting pay while out on leave from the Atascadero Unified School District.

Chris Lynn Berdoll, a sixth-grade teacher and visual arts instructor at the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy, was arrested Monday on suspicion of taking “up-skirt” videos of girls at the school, according to Atascadero police.

Berdoll, 48, of Atascadero was booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail on Monday afternoon on suspicion of sexual exploitation of a child, production of child pornography, and possession of child pornography.

On Tuesday, a San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge approved a motion to increase Berdoll’s bail amount from $35,000 to $500,000, according to Eric Dobroth, assistant district attorney.

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Chris Berdoll, a sixth-grade teacher, is accused of taking inappropriate videos of female students at the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy. Lindsey Holden lholden@thetribunenews.com

Despite the increase, Berdoll posted bail and was released from custody. His attorney, Catherine Swysen, declined to comment on the allegations because the case is pending.

No charges have been filed yet; Dobroth said late Tuesday that his office had not yet received the results from the Atascadero Police Department’s investigation.

He remains on paid administrative leave from his teaching position, according to Tom Butler, superintendent for Atascadero Unified School District, who said Tuesday that Berdoll was placed on leave on Aug. 31, about two weeks after the new school year began.

Berdoll was arrested after district officials contacted police about “the possibility of a district teacher who had inappropriately video-recorded the undergarments of female students.”

Atascadero Police Chief Jerel Haley said that the alleged crimes occurred during this school year and a previous year.

A follow-up by police investigators determined the reports were accurate. Officers served a search warrant at Berdoll’s home and police are now reviewing content found on electronic devices, Haley said.

Police said the school district responded promptly to the allegations, and the parents of all known victims were notified.

“It currently appears that none of the school children involved were physically molested; however, inappropriate videotaping did take place,” according to a city news release.

On Tuesday, Butler was outside the Fine Arts Academy and available to talk to parents during after school pick-up.

Veronica Decoster was one of many parents who arrived on campus to take students home. Decoster’s daughter is a seventh-grader, and Berdoll taught her homeroom class last year.

“She liked him as a teacher, so she’s struggling with it a little bit,” Decoster said of Berdoll’s arrest.

Decoster said she still feels comfortable sending her daughter to classes at the Fine Arts Academy. School officials took the allegations seriously and acted swiftly, she said: “I fully trust the principal.”

Anyone who suspects their child may have been victimized is encouraged to contact the Atascadero Police Department at 805-461-5051 or Curt Eichperger, assistant superintendent of human resources for Atascadero Unified School District, at 805-462-4200.

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Lindsey Holden: 781-7939, @lindseymholden
Matt Fountain: 781-7909, @mattfountain1
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