The Atascadero Unified School District teacher accused of taking inappropriate videos of female students was caught in the act by some of the students in his class, according to one parent familiar with the case.
The Atascadero Police Department arrested Chris Lynn Berdoll, a 48-year-old teacher at the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy, on Sept. 10 in connection with multiple felony charges, including production and possession of child pornography and sexual exploitation of a child. According to police officials, the department's investigation began after receiving a report on Aug. 30 that a teacher had "video recorded the undergarments" of female students.
A parent who spoke with New Times said that her daughter was a student in Berdoll's class who witnessed the alleged videotaping.
"The front row of the class was all girls," said the parent, who asked that her name not be used to protect her child's identity. "Instead of sitting at his desk, he was sitting on a chair close to the students and [my daughter] said it looked like he was filming the girls under the desks."
The parent said that other students also witnessed the incident and alerted the students whom they saw Berdoll was filming. Those students alerted their parents, who told school officials.
"She was very upset that this happened right in front of her," the parent said. "She doesn't want to go to school."
Berdoll has worked for the school district since at least 2012, according to Transparent California, an online database of California government employees. According to a statement from the district, he was placed on administrative leave.
"Should these allegations be confirmed, AUSD will pursue termination of the employee," the district's statement said.
As of Sept. 12, the SLO County District Attorney's Office had not filed criminal charges against Berdoll, but its request to increase Berdoll's bail was granted. Still, Berdoll posted $500,000 bail and was released from custody, according to court records.
While the allegations against Berdoll troubled parents, some also expressed appreciation for the way the district handled the situation. That incudes Roni DeCoster, president of the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy PTSA.
"From the moment this came to light, the entire matter was handled expeditiously and appropriately," DeCoster wrote on the PTSA's Facebook page. "All necessary steps were taken to ensure our students are no longer exposed to potential harm, and counselors are now on site to help students begin the healing process."
Berdoll's attorney did not respond to a request for comment from New Times.