According to the Fresno Bee, former Collegedale teacher Christopher Bispham, 30, is facing multiple charges of sexual battery and assault. He is being held in the Fresno County Jail and is due in court on June 26.
Judge Mark Cullers ruled on Tuesday there was enough evidence for Bispham to stand trial. He faces 260 years to life in prison if he is found guilty on all the charges, said prosecutor Nicole Galstan.
Bispham previously taught at A.W. Spalding Elementary School in Collegedale, a private school associated with the Greater Collegedale School System. He graduated from Southern Adventist University in 2011.
In 2013, he moved to California to teach at the Fresno Adventist Academy and shortly after began victimizing the boys, according to court documents. The alleged victims ranged from ages 10-14.
Bispham is also named in a civil lawsuit for assault, sexual battery, and neglect, among other things. The civil case is scheduled for trial in November of 2020. The Central California Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists is also targeted in that lawsuit.
Two of the boys were also from Collegedale. One of the plaintiffs is also suing the Central California Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church for allegedly negligently hiring, retaining and supervising Bispham while he taught at the academy, and for tipping him off that he would be arrested, according to a mother of one of the alleged victims.
A teacher who worked with Bispham in Fresno said the charges came as a shock — he was well-liked by many students and spent time building relationships with the boys. Court documents also allege that Bispham was allowed to take students on overnight trips and share hotel rooms with them. That is often called “grooming.”
“He did not come to California and just boom he’s all of a sudden a pedophile,” Tami Pafford with “Teachers Against Predators” said. “He began grooming boys here day one, literally day one that he arrived. So we are concerned that it dates back to before his arrival time here in California.”
Mrs. Pafford has started a nonprofit to increase education and awareness of potential sexual predators in school systems.
On Tuesday, a Fresno County judge ruled after hearing evidence from police officers that there is enough for Bispham to stand trial on 18 counts of sexual assault. Bispham has pleaded not guilty to all charges and refused a plea deal. As stated, Bispham could face 260 years to life in prison if found guilty, according to the prosecutor.
As a Church, we should do everything we can to eliminate the sexual abuse of Adventist children, especially in our schools. We should meet these situations decisively, and head-on.
We should also inform teachers and young people about what is morally acceptable and what is not. We should avoid false accusations, and hold to the high standard of Scripture in all things.
“Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).