Ex-Roswell teacher pleads guilty to raping student, gets 10 years in prison

Robert Allen Vandel, 64, pleaded guilty May 6 to multiple charges related to the sexual assault of two of his former students at Fulton Academy of Science and Technology, a Fulton County public charter school in Roswell. He is facing additional charges related to his time at Lyndon Academy, a private school in Holly Springs.

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

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Robert Allen Vandel, 64, pleaded guilty May 6 to multiple charges related to the sexual assault of two of his former students at Fulton Academy of Science and Technology, a Fulton County public charter school in Roswell. He is facing additional charges related to his time at Lyndon Academy, a private school in Holly Springs.

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Robert Vandel is facing additional charges of sexual battery in Cherokee County

A former teacher at a Roswell charter school will serve 10 years in prison and the rest of his life as a sex offender after pleading guilty to raping one of his students in a locked classroom.

The plea, entered May 6 in Fulton County court, was announced this week by Roswell police, who brought charges against former Fulton Academy of Science and Technology (FAST) science teacher Robert Allen Vandel in September 2021. A former seventh-grade student told investigators Vandel called her into his classroom during recess, locked the door and forcibly raped her.

A second FAST student accused Vandel of striking her in the buttocks with a ruler, which prosecutors said was a sexual act.

Vandel, 64, of Canton, pleaded guilty to single counts each of rape, aggravated child molestation and false imprisonment, as well as two counts of child molestation. He was sentenced to life, with the first 10 years to be served behind bars without the possibility of parole.

Two charges of sexual assault by a person with supervisory authority were dropped in the negotiated plea agreement, which was reached “as a result of collaborative conversations between the district attorney’s office, the victims and their families,” Roswell police said in a statement.

“The decision was ultimately driven by a mutually-shared goal of sparing two children the re-traumatization of a lengthy criminal trial, and preventing any further trauma and intrusion into their lives,” the statement read.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation into Vandel’s two-decade career uncovered multiple allegations of sexual battery and inappropriate behavior at public and charter schools in Georgia. The GBI has said there could be victims in as many as six other cities across the state, places where Vandel has taught since 1999.

ExploreEx-Roswell teacher charged with rape had 20-year record of ethics problems

At the time of his arrest, Vandel had been fired from FAST and was teaching at Lyndon Academy, a private school in Holly Springs. He is facing additional charges of sexual battery related to his tenure there, which are still pending in Cherokee County.

But well before allegations of sexual misconduct at the two metro Atlanta schools came to light, Vandel had survived multiple investigations, professional sanctions and a slate of criminal charges that seemed to have no bearing on his ability to secure a job.

Previous ethics investigations at schools in Columbus and Canton had resulted in his termination. Before being hired at FAST, Vandel had been formally reprimanded by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission and his teaching license was suspended twice, including a two-year ban for alleged repeated sexual harassment of students at Midland Middle School in Columbus.

That investigation resulted in criminal charges that were never prosecuted, state licensing records show.

Vandel surrendered his license in 2020 after an initial investigation at FAST found “some disturbing patterns” of behavior but did not uncover sexual assault, his personnel file shows. Administrators recovered an alarming amount of messages sent to three eighth-grade girls from his school account, and one student said the teacher made sexually suggestive comments while on a Facetime call.

He was fired from FAST in the summer of 2020 and hired at Lyndon that fall. The Roswell police case wasn’t opened until August 2021 and only after Vandel’s former student, then 15 years old, disclosed the rape to her mother.

ExploreFormer Roswell charter school teacher arrested, charged with rape of student

During a forensic interview, the girl said she was called into Vandel’s classroom during recess one day during February or March of 2020. She said Vandel sat her down, locked the door and pulled down the blinds used in intruder drills, according to his arrest warrant.

The teacher removed her school uniform before she was raped, the girl told forensic investigators.

“When he stopped, he gave her a white in color kitchen rag to clean the blood off of herself,” a Roswell detective said in the warrant. “He said, ‘Sorry,’ kissed her on the forehead, and gave her a Klondike bar ice cream. She stated that she then left the room crying.”

While building their case, Roswell police spoke with multiple students and teachers who felt something was “odd” about Vandel’s relationships with his students, his arrest warrant shows. At least two girls told police that Vandel massaged their shoulders in class and his hands would slip toward their breasts.

Students at Lyndon Academy provided similar accounts to police in Holly Springs. A 13-year-old Lyndon Academy student has accused Vandel of hitting her on the buttocks with a ruler and rubbing himself against her while she bent over a desk in class, according to an arrest warrant.

Police on Feb. 18 filed charges in the Cherokee case, which has not been indicted.

When released from prison, Vandel must register as a sex offender and may not have any contact with the two Roswell victims, nor any unsupervised contact with children under the age of 16, Fulton court records show.