Metro Atlanta teacher arrested for rape and molestation has history of misconduct

With a history of alleged sexual misconduct against children and a revoked teaching certificate, Robert Vandel continued to teach children around Georgia.
Updated: Oct. 28, 2021 at 5:09 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A metro Atlanta teacher was arrested for the rape and molestation of one of his students, but a CBS46 investigation revealed the educator has a history of misconduct across Georgia schools.

Police arrested Robert Allen Vandel at Lyndon Academy in September. Despite his teaching certification being revoked and despite misconduct allegations spanning decades, he was working at the Holly Springs private school. But, the arrest in Holly Springs happened because of what investigators say he did in Fulton County.

“My job is to determine the truth,” an investigator can be heard telling Robert Allen Vandel on a call that would last nearly 30 minutes.

“You then asked to see her neck,” the investigator said. Vandel interrupted, “Something along that line -- ‘you don’t have anything on your neck anymore’ or something along that line. I don’t know.”

The October 2020 call focused on his own calls and emails to middle school students at Fulton Academy of Science and Technology (FAST).

“Well, you said that if you were there you would put a hickey on her neck,” the investigator continued. “No,” Vandel chuckled.

The 63-year-old sent 80 emails to one student in 10 days and 15 to another female student in five days. The investigator with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC) described the communication as “disturbing.”

“The only answer I can give you, sir, is that the kids were more than just kids to me. Some of them I thought were more family than kids.” Vandel added, “with God as my witness, that’s all it was. I don’t know what I can say to you to satisfy what you’re looking for.”

“Well, just a reasonable explanation,” the investigator countered.

The call led to his teaching certificate being revoked. But it came six months after a student reported to FAST that Vandel “touched her inappropriately on the shoulders by massaging the breast area and occasionally tapped [her] on the butt,” according to school documents obtained by CBS46.

A History of Misconduct

“I don’t know why it took so long to get him out of the system,” Carol Crocker recalled.

Nearly 20 years ago, she worked with Vandel at Midland Middle in Columbus. As the sign language interpreter in his class, she says she saw the signs of misconduct and reported it to the school in 2003.

Records CBS46 reviewed, verifies she explained concerns to campus officials -- reporting concerns with touching, giving the kids nicknames. Vandel’s Midland Middle personnel file shows, other teachers reported sexually suggestive comments he allegedly made to students.

“He would take his meter stick and just tap them on the butt.” Crocked continued, “I was really disgusted with it, I didn’t want to be part of it.”

The sign language interpreter considered it “grooming” and feared more had happened. She was not wrong, according to Columbus Police records. That school year, investigators charged Vandel with five counts of sexual battery against female students.

Meanwhile, another student told police he said “come to his house to get a Christmas present.” Others told Columbus PD, “he touched them on the buttocks or inner thighs.”

Vandel resigned from the Columbus school. We found the PSC later suspended his teaching certificate for 18 months. But the educator would go on to teach in Alabama. When his suspension was up, he worked in Georgia teaching middle-schoolers across the state.

Personnel files include his employment in the Chatham County School district in 2005, Notre Dame Academy in 2008, St. John’s in 2009, Cherokee County Charter in 2016, FAST in 2017, then Lyndon Academy in 2020.

Are there more victims?

Lyndon Academy is where Vandel was arrested this fall. Although it was for the alleged rape and molestation at FAST, detectives believe there could be sexual assault victims at Lyndon and other school districts he’s worked. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is now asking students and teachers to come forward.

Tamera Vega, the parent of a student in Vandel’s Lyndon Academy science class, questioned why he was still able to teach.

While Vandel’s personnel records include his firing from FAST, the history of accusations, the state investigations, and the revocation of his teaching certification-- Lyndon Academy hired him last year.

CBS46 obtained a letter to a concerned parent in which the headmaster acknowledged Vandel’s history, noting the private school does not require him to have his certification.

Adding, the school looks forward to the year ‘filled with experiences.’ Lyndon Academy told CBS46 they are currently referring parents to pediatricians and local law enforcement. But the school said they couldn’t comment further.

“At this point, hearing my own daughter’s account of the little things he used to do that were preparing them, potentially that type of...” Vega paused. “I have no doubt there are other victims.”

“I think it behooves a school district to take immediate and swift action if they become aware of an educator acting inappropriately,” Paul Shaw explained.

Shaw is the Director of Ethics within the PSC, certifying, revoking, and investigating complaints against Georgia educators.

Some families question if the agency could have done more, sooner to flag districts about the science teacher’s history. But Shaw argues their Georgia system relies on schools searching the online database or schools directly reaching out to the commission, not the other way around.

“So you only tell them if they ask,” CBS46′s Ciara Cummings questioned. “Right because we would have no idea, over 180 school districts, where the person is employed or seeking employment. We don’t have that type of um, how should I say -- authority, or any method of doing that.”

CBS46 learned the 2003 sexual battery case went to court but the five charges were later dead-docketed, according to PSC records.

The charges were basically suspended indefinitely, the case can be picked back up at any time.

Vandel remains in jail as a judge denied his bond.

If you want to review a Georgia teacher’s background, you can search their first and last name in this state database.