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Fulton County Schools, charter system enabled a child predator | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey


ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) – A new federal lawsuit claims the Fulton County School System and its charter school enabled a child predator.

Former teacher Robert Vandel, 65, was convicted earlier this year for multiple charges connected to the rape and molestation of students at Fulton Academy of Science and Technology (FAST) and later at Lyndon Academy, a private school in Cherokee County.

In the Fulton case, Vandel was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In Cherokee, the negotiated plea was 20 years, the first eight of which will be served in prison and the remaining on probation.

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However, Fulton County Schools and FAST are the subject of a June 14, 2023, federal suit, which alleges both the district and the school violated Title IX, the federal law mandating the right to education regardless of sex.

“Everything about Vandel’s position and hiring was a red flag,” said attorney Michael Moore, who is representing one of the victims. “Federal law says they have to provide an education environment for little girls that is just as safe as they do for little boys. In this case, they just turned their back on female students.”

  • Read the full lawsuit here.

After two years of Atlanta News First investigations, Moore filed the suit, claiming the charter school failed to listen to repeated complaints from young girls about Vandel.

“They were more than just kids to me,” Vandel told an investigator in 2020 in a phone interview. Atlanta News First Investigates previously uncovered the recorded audio through public records.

The state agency tasked with teacher certification, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC), interrogated Vandel at that time. They reviewed what investigators called “disturbing emails and comments” Vandel, then 63, sent to 8th graders.

“Well, you said that if you were there, you would put a hickey on her neck,” an agent said. “No, sir,” Vandel replied.

Vandel already had misconduct complaints spanning nearly 20 years across seven different Georgia school systems, according to Atlanta News First investigations. But that phone call would lead to Vandel’s teaching license being revoked, a revocation that came too late for one of his victims.

“She was raped in her science classroom by her science teacher” the mother of one of his victims told Atlanta News First Investigates in February. “Now, five days a week she goes back into school, into classrooms, and has to sit in a similar desk and attempt to learn.”

Atlanta News First does not identify survivors of sexual abuse. To protect the child’s identity, her parents are also not being identified.

Vandel was convicted and sentenced in that case. The parents then filed their own separate civil lawsuit in February.

This month’s new federal lawsuit is connected to a second victim, who brought complaints to campus leaders. Attorneys allege some staff took Vandel’s side. A school official told the student, “Vandel would be mortified to hear how she perceived his behavior,” according to the lawsuit. Additionally, the lawsuit said a school official “blamed [the victim] for wearing uniform pants … too tight.”

Moore maintains the school system and its charter showed “deliberate indifference.”

“He grooms them, he prepares them for this and then just like a predator he goes after his prey and that’s ultimately what these children were,” Moore said. When Atlanta News First asked Moore if he believed the school enabled a sexual predator, the attorney replied, “there’s no question about it.”

“The FAST Board is aware that litigation has been filed against the school relating to the conduct of a former faculty member, Robert Vandel,” according to a statement from the school. “We remain deeply committed to the uncompromised safety and security of our students and staff members, which will always be a top priority at FAST. Because this is pending litigation, we cannot provide any additional comment on the matter, other than to say that we deny all of the allegations asserted against FAST in the complaint.”

“FAST is a separate legal entity from the Fulton County Schools (FCS) district,” the Fulton County Schools system said. “FAST creates and implements its own personnel policies and hires, vets, and manages its staff independently. FCS does not comment on pending litigation.”

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