Parents say school knowingly put kids in danger for hiring teacher accused of child sex crimes

HOLLY SPRINGS, Ga. — Parents at Lydon Academy said school leaders knowingly put students in danger when they hired a teacher with a troubled past.

Robert Vandel was a second-year teacher at the Holly Springs private school when police arrested him in September.

Vandel is accused of multiple child sex crimes including rape and aggravated child molestation. The alleged incident for which Vandel was arrested occurred in early 2020 at Fulton Academy of Science and Technology in Roswell.

Vandel taught at FAST before he was hired at Lyndon Academy. Roswell police said the victim was a student in Vandel’s class.

On Wednesday, Channel 2′s Chris Jose learned a whistleblower told Lyndon Academy about Vandel’s disciplinary issues involving students at other Georgia schools.

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.”

Murdock also said people who knew and worked with Vandel, “strongly recommended that we give him a second chance.”

“A parent brought it forward to them and another principal brought it forward to them, they had every opportunity to avoid this,” said a mother who asked not to be identified because her students are enrolled at the school. “It’s just very concerning that the school allowed that to happen and allowed it to continue to happen.”

“Do you believe school leaders put other kids in danger?” Jose asked.

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“Completely. Yes, I do,” the parent said. “By allowing that to continue to happen after they were made aware of everything, they completely put them in danger.”

Franklin Simmons withdrew his daughter from Lyndon Academy shortly after learning of Vandel’s arrest.

“She didn’t feel safe there anymore or comfortable,” Simmons said. “We just didn’t feel that it was a good environment for her anymore. She had a lot of trepidation about returning to the school.”

A Fulton County judge denied Vandel’s bond on Tuesday. His trial is scheduled to begin at the end of February.

Simmons was at Vandel’s court appearance this week. He told Jose his daughter wants to be there for the trial.

“What would you say to him?” Jose asked.

“I would have nothing to say. It would probably be best to not be within hands’ reach of him,” Simmons said.

The GBI said there are potentially more victims in the Georgia communities of Canton, Duluth, Holly Springs, Savannah, Valdosta and Woodstock, and possibly Opelika, Alabama.

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