Update: Former teacher given 4 years, 4 months in state prison for child pornography crimes
Chris Berdoll convicted of 25 felony counts of production, possession of child pornography involving 17 victims
Update posted Dec. 18:
– District Attorney Dan Dow announced this week that San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Jesse Marino has sentenced Chris L. Berdoll (52) of Atascadero to serve 4 years and 4 months in state prison for his convictions of 25 felony counts of production and possession of child pornography, involving 17 separate victims.
The crimes took place while Berdoll, was employed as a teacher at the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy. Berdoll’s plea of no contest to all counts was entered on October 26, 2021, after Judge Marino indicated at the time of the plea that he would sentence Berdoll to serve only three years in state prison even though the Deputy District Attorney objected to such a light sentence.
After reviewing the pre-sentencing report prepared by the probation department, the district attorney’s sentencing memo, and hearing from several victims and their family members, Judge Marino imposed a 4 year and 4-month prison sentence.
At the time of the plea and again at the time of sentencing, the District Attorney’s Office objected to the three-year sentence indicated by the judge and urged the court to impose the maximum sentence of 19 years. The probation department recommended a sentence of 5 years and 8 months.
“Crimes against children must be strongly punished, particularly when committed by those with influence or in a position of authority over the victim,” said District Attorney Dan Dow. “While it is disappointing that the Judge did not impose a stronger sentence against this former teacher, our office will continue to advocate for appropriately tough sentences against all child predators.”
At the sentencing hearing, one parent highlighted that although the convictions involved specific individuals under the law, Berdoll’s predatory breach of trust worked to victimize the entire student body of Atascadero Fine Arts Academy, noting that “he hurt hundreds of victims.”
This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Danielle Baker who is assigned to the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit and was investigated by the City of Atascadero Police Department with the assistance of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation.
Update posted Oct., 2021:
Former Atascadero teacher given plea deal for sexual misconduct
District Attorney says he ‘strongly objected’ to lenient sentence
– Former Atascadero Fine Arts Academy teacher Chris Berdoll plead no contest and accepted a plea deal for 25 criminal felony charges of sexual misdonduct, according to reports, and now faces three years in state prison and registration as a sex offender.
District Attorney Dan Dow said that he ‘strongly objected’ to the lenient sentence:
“Through our assigned prosecutor, the District Attorney’s Office strongly objected to this agreement by Judge Jesse Marino to give a very lenient sentence of only three years to the former teacher Mr. Berdoll. Anyone who abuses their position of trust and commits over twenty felonies victimizing his juvenile students, should be sentenced in a manner that reflects the shocking magnitude of victims and the lifelong negative impacts on them. This promise of leniency by a Judge sends a horrible message to our community and to these families in San Luis Obispo County. My office will continue to object to this and argue for an appropriately harsh prison sentence of 17 to 19 years in state prison.”
-Dan Dow, District Attorney
Update posted Nov., 2018:
Update: Details emerge involving teacher accused of sexual misconduct
–New details as to the process that former Atascadero Fine Arts Academy 6th grade teacher Chris Berdoll allegedly used to film and take pictures of students’ skirts have emerged.
According to the Modesto Bee, The Tribune filed a California Public Records Act request to obtain a copy of a Title IX report detailing an investigation that Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo — a Fresno law firm retained by the district — conducted into accusations against Berdoll.
Investigators interviewed 12 students for the report, and seven are mentioned in the context of various incidents.
The report also describes how he allegedly set up classroom situations to improve his vantage point, such as positioning a pencil sharpener in a high location, asking students to hang posters or requesting that they move their seats.
The Tribune also requested the amount of money Berdoll was paid during the 19 days he was on paid leave. He took in $7,034, or $389 per day, according to reports.
To read more details of the incidents, click here.
Update posted Oct. 4, 2018:
Teacher accused of child porn production resigns
–An update regarding the incident with a teacher at the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy has been sent by Atascadero Unified School District Superintendent Thomas Butler. The update is posted below:
At the Atascadero Unified School District Board of Education Meeting, held on Oct. 2, 2018, the Board of Trustees took the formal action of accepting Chris Berdoll’s resignation effective Sept. 27, 2018. This terminates Berdoll’s employment and immediately moves Berdoll to an unpaid status.
The Administration has also completed a comprehensive internal investigation and formally reported all information to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is the governing body that oversees the issuing and revocation of all teaching licenses. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing also maintains communication with all other State Credentialing Commissions. In addition, the School District will continue to actively cooperate with law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office to ensure the justice process is fully served.
AUSD is pleased to share that a highly qualified permanent teacher has been assigned to replace Berdoll. The new teacher is a stellar employee and brings outstanding educational skills and artistic talents to her new position at the Fine Arts Academy. Counseling services remain available for all of our students and staff at the Fine Arts Academy and throughout the school district.
Finally, the Atascadero Unified School District would like to thank the following groups:
• The students of the Fine Arts Academy for their ongoing scholarship and tremendous character.
• The parents of the Fine Arts Academy for the outstanding support they have provided to their children and the school site.
• The staff of the Fine Arts Academy that continues to deliver a world-class education through the arts.
• The Atascadero Police Department and the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office for their immediate, thorough, and professional response.
On behalf of the entire School District, we are truly grateful for the incredible support we have received from our outstanding community.
Thomas Butler, Superintendent
Update: Teacher charged with 44 counts of child porn production, possession
Update posted Sept. 22:
Atascadero teacher Chris L. Berdoll was charged Friday with a total of 44 separate felony counts related to the production and possession of child pornography, involving 20 separate victims.
The investigation is ongoing and the public is encouraged to contact the Atascadero Police Department with any additional information.
Update posted Sept. 15:
On Thursday. Sept. 13, the investigation of Atascadero Fine Arts teacher Chris L Berdoll was referred to the District Attorneys Office by the Atascadero Police Department. Berdoll is being investigated for possession of matter depicting a minor engaging in sexual conduct, sexual exploitation of a child, and using a minor for commercial sex acts.
The case continues to be investigated by the Atascadero Police Department with the assistance of the District Attorneys Bureau of Investigation.
Given the volume and sensitivity of the investigation, it will take some time to review the matter for filing, according to the district attorney. A filing decision will be made in advance of the Sept. 24 court date.
On Monday. September 10. 2018 Berdoll was arrested by the Atascadero Police Department Investigators were successful in attaining an enhanced bail amount of $500.000. Berdoll posted bail and is out of custody.
The public has expressed concern about the issuance of Criminal Protective Orders. Criminal Protective Orders cannot be obtained until Berdoll’s Sept. 24 arraignment. At that time the District Attorney’s Office will seek such orders where legally appropriate.
The district attorney’s office is keeping the lines of communication open between investigating law enforcement agencies and the school district to ensure effective communication and will continue to update the public on the status of the investigation, according to District Attorney Dan Dow.
Berdoll is scheduled for Arraignment on Sept. 24, at 8:30 a.m. in Department 3 of the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.
Original story posted Sept. 12
–Notification was recently made by the Atascadero Unified School District to the Atascadero Police Department regarding the possibility of a district teacher who had inappropriately video-recorded the undergarments of female students. Upon immediate investigation, the police department determined that the reports were accurate. Search warrants were obtained and the Police Department collaborated with the SLO County District Attorney’s office for assistance in the investigation.
Teacher Chris Lynn Berdoll, 48 years of age and a resident of Atascadero, was arrested Monday and has been charged with sexual exploitation of a child, production of child pornography, and possession of child pornography.
Both the School District and the Police Department responded promptly to the allegations. Parents of the victims were notified and investigators are working closely with the district superintendent and school staff. It currently appears that none of the schoolchildren involved were physically molested; however inappropriate videotaping did take place. The images obtained did not contain any adult contact with the children. In an effort to maintain the integrity of the investigation and confidentiality of the juvenile victims and their families, no additional information will be released at this time.
“The courageous individuals who “saw something and said something,” allowed the district to take immediate action to ensure student safety,” stated Superintendent, Thomas Butler. “As a small part of our commitment to the wellbeing of the students, additional counselling services are being made available.”
The Police Department has contacted the parents of all known victims, but if anyone suspects their child may have been victimized, they are encouraged to contact the Atascadero Police Department. Contact information, Police Chief Jerel Haley or Police Lieutenant Jason Carr at (805) 461-5051 or Curt Eichperger, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Atascadero Unified School District office, (805) 462-4200.
Executive Assistant to the Superintendent, Stacey Phillips, released the following statement:
The Atascadero Unified School District is committed to student safety and is thankful to the individuals who brought forward initial concerns and allegations about a staff member at the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy. These courageous individuals who “saw something and said something,” allowed the District to take immediate action to ensure student safety.
The Atascadero Unified School District responds to all reports of alleged misconduct seriously and places student safety as our number one priority. In doing so, the district took immediate action by notifying the Atascadero Police Department and placing the employee on administrative leave to protect students, while conducting a thorough internal investigation. Should these allegations be confirmed, AUSD will pursue the termination of the employee. As an active investigation involving juvenile victims is currently ongoing, the district is unable to comment at this time.
As a commitment to the wellbeing of our students, additional counseling services are available. AUSD believes that the safety of our students, staff, and community is paramount and works diligently to make certain that safety remains first and foremost.
For additional information, please visit the City of Atascadero’s Website, under Latest News, for the Atascadero Police Department Press Release.