Former Collegedale teacher accused of sexually assaulting students in California

Christopher Bispham / Photo contributed by WRCB - TV Channel 3
photo Christopher Bispham / Photo contributed by WRCB - TV Channel 3

A former Collegedale teacher is accused of sexually assaulting three boys in California, two of whom he knew from Tennessee.

Christopher Bispham, 30, faces numerous charges including sexual battery and assault. He is being held in the Fresno County Jail and is due in court on June 26.

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.

According to court documents, Bispham was fired from Spalding Elementary after he was charged with a DUI.

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.

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.

There are no records that indicate Bispham was ever an employee of Hamilton County Schools, according to Chief Talent Officer Keith Fogleman. However, the district does not keep records of student teachers and interns, who typically are students from local colleges and universities.

According to sources close to Bispham, he coached Little League and worked at summer camps while a college student.

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.

Victims accuse him of "brushing his hand across the boys' private parts while they were wrestling, swimming and playing basketball," which escalated to groping and performing sexual acts on the boys, according to the court documents.

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. He faces up to 260 years in prison.

Other local school districts have not responded to information requests or confirmed if Bispham had been an employee while he lived in Tennessee.