Back in September 2021 police arrested Robert Allen Vandel at Lyndon Academy in Holly Springs, GA. Even though his teaching certificate had been revoked and he had misconduct allegations sprinkled throughout his career, he was working at a private school. A wealth of information in this post is from the Atlanta Journal Constitution in a February 2022 article written by Chelsea Prince
In the spring of 2020, Vandel was teaching at the Fulton Academy of Science and Technology, a public charter school in Fulton County. One of his seventh-grade students was raped by the then 62-year-old in a locked classroom during recess.
Another student at Lyndon Academy has also accused the former teacher of sexual battery. Lyndon hired Vandel after he was fired from FAST but before that rape charge happened.
Robert Vandel started teaching in 1998 in Opelika, AL in the Lee County School District. So far no known allegations have been made about his time there.
In 2003 he was teaching at Midland Middle School in Columbus, GA and was fired that year after an investigation into inappropriate relationships with students. He did have charges filed against him, but the investigation was eventually dropped. His behavior was also reported to the state certification commission for behavior that was “at a minimum, overly familiar and inappropriate in the context of a student teacher relationship.
Students had complained that Vandel would stand behind them in class, massaging their shoulders, would straddle their legs and rubbed their inner thighs when they went to his desk to ask questions. One said she would be hit on the rear with a ruler when she was bent over in class. The investigation into Vandel at that time also detailed multiple conversations with students’ suggesting that there were special presents and meetups over Christmas break at his home.
Vandel ended up resigning from Midland Middle and was charged with four counts of sexual battery and one of simple battery, but charges were eventually dropped in 2004 (from what I’ve read since, they weren’t dropped but basically frozen so that the investigation could be picked up at any time.) He was never tried or convicted. One woman that worked with Robert Vandel, a sign language interpreter in his class, said that she saw the signs of his misconduct in 2003 and reported it to the school.
Those signs included inappropriate touching, giving them nicknames. She considered it grooming and was worried that more had happened. Other teachers reported sexually suggestive comments.
After Midland Middle School he taught for a year at Rose Hill Alternative School, also in Columbus.
He stuck around Columbus for a while and worked as a graduate assistant in a biology lab helping teach undergrads at Columbus State University in 2004.
Vandel moved across the state line in 2005 to Phenix City, Alabama so he could keep teaching and worked in the Russell County School District.
In 2005 Vandel moved to Savannah, Georgia where he taught middle school and coached the girls’ softball team at Coastal Middle School. His teaching certificate was suspended in 2006. At a hearing in 2006 a judge found the testimony of the students credible and Vandel’s license was suspended, even though the Georgia PSC had recommended it be revoked.
In 2008, after his suspension was up, he taught middle school math at Notre Dame Academy in Savannah.
In 2009 Vandel moved to St. John the Evangelist School in Hapeville, GA where he also coached the track team. He worked as a long-term substitute for the 2009-2010 school year.
From 2010 to 2015 Vandel worked as an “educational consultant” to develop school improvement programs.
In 2016 Vandel moved to Canton where he taught at Cherokee Charter Academy. He had been granted a clearance certificate that said he (Vandel) had passed fingerprint and background check requirements (since the earlier charges had been dropped, he had a clean criminal record) and it specified that his teaching certificate was in good standing, never listing the previous ethics infractions. He was fired after he showed up to a school function drunk and his teaching certificate was again suspended, this time for ten days.
2017, Vandel was hired at the Fulton Academy of Science and Technology, in Roswell. He was terminated from that position after an investigation was done by the principal and an outside investigator. When the investigation was over, it was reported to DFCS (Family and Children Services) but no action was taken. The principal also reported the ethics violation to the Georgia PSC and a case was opened. When he applied at FAST he did disclose his two-year suspension but didn’t provide any details. He told them that he had left the Cherokee Charter Academy the prior year because he desired a better position (although he had been fired as noted above)
Prior to his termination at FAST, an IT person found a bunch of messages sent to three eigth grade girls on his email account and it was reported to the principal. The school hired a private investigator who found disturbing patterns of behavior but did not uncover anything about the rape (later reported). One of the students received eighty messages from Vandel over a ten-day period. Only seven of those were related to schoolwork. There were fifteen to another student in a week’s Time. None of the messages were sexual in nature but the student did say that Vandel video called her and after asking to see her bedroom, asked her to show him her neck.
Vandel told the student that if he were there, he would put a hickey on her neck.
When asked about Vandel by the AJC, a spokesperson for FAST said the school prioritizes the safety of its students and staff and that it follows the mandated requirements for background checks for all employees and board members. Basically, double speak in saying, we did the bare minimum and as we are short teachers, we don’t give enough of a fuck to do an actual check and maybe call for references. That may or may not be the case as I am fairly sure that administration in his prior schools was probably legally pretty limited in what they can say.
Bob Vandel was hired and started teaching at Lyndon Academy in Holly Springs in August 2020. Before being hired Vandel passed all his criminal background checks. Even with a clean criminal record, his ethics history was available to anyone that requested it from the state certification commission. Hell, I looked it up myself in about five minutes at the Ga PSC. They also could have checked with the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). That’s a national clearinghouse where all fifty states report certification histories. According to the headmaster of Lyndon Academy he was vetted according to “private school protocol”. Private schools are not required to check records with the state’s PSC unfortunately. Just as a “you should know” private schools almost always pay their teacher a whole lot less than public school teachers as well.
The Ga PSC revoked his teaching certificate, and he surrendered it in September 2020. It became effective on October 8th, 2020.
Vandel was arrested a year later, September 2nd, 2021, by Roswell Police on rape charges as well as others from his behavior in 2020. In October 2021, the GBI reported that there could be more victims and listed Holly Springs, Canton, Woodstock, Valdosta, Duluth, Savannah, Columbus as well as Opelika, Alabama as places he may have offended. Vandel pleaded not guilty to those charges. The case was opened in August of 2021 by the Roswell Police after the 15-year-old girl told her mother about the rape. Vandel was fired immediately after his arrest.
At least a dozen students have been unenrolled (as of this past February) and I’m sure more since then, as parents at the school say that the administration knowingly put their children in danger when they hired Robert Vandel. Apparently, a whistleblower came forward and Lyndon Academy headmaster Linda Murdock told the whistleblower in a letter “We were aware of the suspensions when we first interviewed him two years ago.”
According to the arrest warrant, at one point while he was at FAST, an administrator moved Vandel’s class from a trailer into the main building because she was worried about visits with girls. Vandel would keep animals and insects in his classroom to encourage kids to come and spend time in there.
On February 18th, 2022, the Holly Springs police announced charges of sexual battery against Vandel and said that those crimes happened between January and June 2021.
Back in May 2022, Vandel pleaded guilty to rape, aggravated child molestation, false imprisonment and two counts of child molestation from the time he worked at Lyndon Academy. Vandel was serving his sentence, 20 years for child molestation and 10 years for rape and false imprisonment at Dodge State Prison (GA DOC ID#1003145701). No parole for at least ten years and he will be on probation and the sex offender registry for the rest of his hopefully short life when and if he ever gets out. In Cherokee County he is facing two counts of child molestation and two counts of sexual battery of a child under 16 and entered a not guilty plea earlier this month (November 2022). His trial was set to start yesterday (November 14th)
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