Fresno High School teacher Darren Klassen was handcuffed in a Fresno courtroom Friday and taken to jail after he pleaded not guilty to 37 sex crimes involving a former student.
Since his arrest last month, Klassen, 46 and married with children, had been free on $80,000 bail.
But in court Friday, prosecutor Rick Thomas made a motion to increase the bail to $860,000, which Superior Court Judge Brian Alvarez granted.
The judge also granted Thomas’ request for a protective order for the former student, a 17-year-old girl who graduated from Fresno High in June.
Klassen was arrested Sept. 24 after the girl reported her sexual relationship to her parents. Her parents then notified police.
A criminal complaint accuses Klassen of having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and committing lewd acts.
A police detective’s affidavit says the girl told her parents she began having a relationship with Klassen when she was a 15-year-old freshman. Shortly after she turned 16 in November 2013, she started having sex with Klassen, the affidavit says. She said the first encounter was in his classroom. She told detectives it was the first time she had sexual relations with anyone.
The affair then escalated to having sex with Klassen three to five days a week in the 2014-15 school year, the affidavit says. The sex happened in his classroom or inside a house, she told detectives.
During the relationship, the girl said she sent hundreds of sexually provocative photographs of herself to Klassen via text messages. At the direction of a detective, the girl called Klassen. The affidavit says Klassen answered the telephone and admitted in the recorded telephone call to having sex with the girl.
The affidavit allowed detectives to search Klassen’s classroom at Fresno High, his home and his car. Among the items seized was Klassen’s cellphone, school laptops, his computer tablets and a thumb drive. Police also seized the girl’s cellphone as evidence.
After Klassen’s arrest, Fresno Unified School District put him on administrative leave.
“Allegations of this nature are extremely upsetting and do not reflect the high professional standards the district expects of staff,” Fresno Unified spokesman Miguel Arias said Friday.
In accordance with state law, the district has sent a copy of the criminal complaint to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, Arias said. The commission automatically suspends the teacher’s credential and the district places the teacher on compulsory unpaid leave, he said.
Klassen’s next court hearing is Oct. 20, when defense attorney Adam Rodriguez will ask for a reduction of his client’s bail.
In court Friday, Rodriguez said Klassen is a candidate for reduced bail because he has strong ties to the community and is law-abiding. Outside court, Rodriguez said Klassen also is a well-respected teacher who has impacted young lives in a positive way.
Before teaching at Fresno High, Klassen was a teacher at Madera South High School for more than a decade. During that time, he was honored as an outstanding creative-writing teacher at Fresno State’s 2004 Young Writers Conference.
Klassen also has been a fixture in Fresno’s music scene, playing bass for Louder Than Waves, which performed in August at the Summerland 2015 music festival.