APD: Teacher arrested for child porn


Atascadero Fine Arts Academy staffer under investigation

ATASCADERO — UPDATE — The Atascadero Police Department has referred the investigation of Chris L. Berdoll to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office for review and potential filing of criminal charges, the DA's Office reported Friday, Sept. 14. Berdoll is being investigated for conduct that occurred while employed as a teacher at the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy.

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero Police Department, along with the Atascadero Unified School District (AUSD) notified parents and the public on Monday, Sept. 10, that students may have been video-recorded in compromising situations by a teacher.

An investigation into the alleged misconduct of Chris Lynn Berdoll, who the District identified as a full-time teacher at Atascadero Fine Arts Academy, led to the 48 year-old Atascadero resident’s arrest on Sept. 10.

In a press statement the Atascadero Police Department explained that: “Search warrants were obtained and the Police Department collaborated with the SLO County District Attorney’s office for assistance in the investigation.”

Berdoll was arrested on suspicion of the following charges: sexual exploitation of a child; production of child pornography; and possession of child pornography.
Both Atascadero Police Chief Jerel Haley and AUSD Superintendent Tom Butler said their organizations worked together as quickly and as closely as possible as soon as information was reported to officials at the district.

In a statement emailed to parents and the press, Butler said he was, “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.”

Some parents with children at the school where the incident was reported told local television station KSBY that they were upset to learn of the events through Social Media, however Butler noted, all parents of potential victims had already been notified directly by the Police.

He later added that he could not be specific for the sake of victim confidentiality as well as student confidentiality in general, but the fact that witnesses did not hesitate to address the situation allowed AUSD to immediately involve patrol officers from the police department, then detectives, who were able to support potential victims.

Chief Haley said that as of Monday afternoon they were still interviewing multiple children, but it, “doesn’t appear that there are multiple unidentified victims.”

Neither, he said, did it it appear that any of the schoolchildren involved were physically molested.

Inappropriate videotaping rather, involving the undergarments of female students, was the basis for charges against Berdoll, and the Chief Haley said, corroborated in the evidence seized.  

The descriptions of the behavior have led some outlets to report the activities as a practice known as “upskirting,” usually a voyeuristic taking of photos with a digital camera by a male of an unsuspecting or unaware female.

In Japan the practice has become such a public nuisance that manufacturers have enacted self-regulation to ban the deactivation of the “shutter sound” in smartphone camera apps, thus providing some warning that a photo is being taken.

The material seized in the Berdoll case, “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,” read the initial statement.

Butler added that counseling resources were available for children, parents, staff and other teachers, both at the Fine Arts Academy location and throughout the district and that Berdoll had been immediately suspended with termination proceeding.

“I’m glad we live in a community which values the safety of our children so highly,” he said of the initial reports which sparked the investigation. “Anyone who knows anything more should contact our offices or go to the Atascadero Police.”

Chief Haley noted this type of case was unusual but not unknown locally, serving as a reminder to,”Always talk to your kids. Find out if there’s anything going on which might be disturbing to them.”

Note: Story revised Sept. 14, 2018.


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