Atascadero Unified accused of not protecting students



Six Jane Does filed a complaint in federal court claiming that the Atascadero Unified School District did not protect its students against a former teacher alleged to have taken up-skirt images of his female students.

Chris Berdoll, who was a sixth-grade teacher at the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy, was arrested on Sept. 10 and posted $500,000 bail shortly after. A criminal arraignment is scheduled on Oct. 29 for 44 felony charges related to child pornography.

The civil complaint filed on Oct. 22 alleges that the district didn't follow proper protocol to ensure the safety of their students. The alleged incidents involving Berdoll started during the 2016-17 school year, when four of the Jane Does were seventh graders.

The complaint states that Berdoll often asked the girls to help organize his classroom and eat lunch with him. When the girls managed to avoid his alleged invitations, the complaint claims he would find them on the playground and lurk around them while carrying his iPad.

According to the complaint, Berdoll's personal iPad and other electronic devices contained photos of the victims' genital regions. He converted those images into explicit child pornography, sometimes editing his own images engaged in sex acts with images of children, the complaint claims.

During the 2017-18 school year, the complaint states, Berdoll continued to insist that the Jane Does—four eighth graders and two fifth graders—spend lunch time in his classroom.

The following school year, Jane Doe 1 was assigned to Berdoll's sixth grade class where, the complaint alleges, he moved her seat from the back of the classroom to a row directly across from his desk.

On Aug. 28, 2018, the complaint alleges, one of the girls witnessed Berdoll angling his phone under Jane Doe 1's desk and reported his behavior to her mother, who in turn called Jane Doe 1's mother. On Aug. 30, 2018, Berdoll's behavior was reported to the district, and the Atascadero Police Department executed a search warrant of his electronic devices.

According to the complaint, the department discovered photos that depicted the private areas and or surrounding body parts of at least 16 female minors, including all six Jane Does. The complaint accuses the school district of failing to ensure that all its employees were properly trained and supervised to perform their jobs.

The complaint alleges that the school had neither a vice principal nor a full-time principal at the time, that Berdoll openly carried his iPad in the schoolyard and his classroom during school hours, and the district failed to enforce its policy banning employees from the personal use of cellphones while on duty.

The district emailed New Times a statement denying the allegations made against the district in the complaint. Δ

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