CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — The headmaster at Lyndon Academy is only telling Channel 2 Action News about the new protocols in place that she says will prevent another bad hire.
The update comes after a recent hire turned out to be a suspected child predator.
Last September, Robert Vandel, a teacher at Lyndon Academy, left campus in handcuffs accused of raping a student at Fulton Academy of Science and Technology in Roswell. The alleged incident happened in early 2020 while he was a teacher at the charter school.
In an exclusive interview with Channel 2′s Chris Jose, Lyndon Academy headmaster Linda Murdock said she put her trust in a system followed by all private schools in the state of Georgia.
She said Vandel passed his background check two years ago. It included the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, social media checks, references, and recommendations.
The alleged sexual assault in Roswell had not been reported to authorities yet.
“Did you do a background check when you first hired Mr. Vandel?” asked Jose.
“We vetted him according to private school protocol,” said Murdock. “He had a Georgia teaching license. He was vetted like all other teachers are done in private school.”
Murdock told Jose she did not know Vandel had a troubled past that involved allegations of sexual misconduct at Midland Middle School in Columbus.
“Did you look at his file? His public service commission file?” asked Jose.
“No, I did not have that,” said Murdock. “I hired a teacher who the state of Georgia said had a license to teach their children.”
Jose obtained a copy of Vandel’s 2006 file which lays out the sexual battery allegations.
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Georgia Professional Standards Commission suspended Vandel’s teaching license for two years in 2006 based on accusations that he touched girls inappropriately in his classroom at Midland Middle School.
Jose read the details to Murdock.
“On two occasions, Vandel touched students on their inner thighs,” Jose read.
“If I had known that, there’s no way he’d been here. Absolutely no way,” Murdock said.
Vandel was not convicted in the 2006 sexual battery case that got his license suspended.
Murdock told Jose that Vandel was upfront about the suspensions.
“I can say, yes, I knew about the suspension, but not what was involved,” Murdock said. “As the head of the school, the buck stops here. I’m responsible for everything that happens here. I’m responsible for every single child.”
“I can say trust is shaken. It needs to come back,” she added.
Private schools are not required to check records with the state’s Public Service Commission. Following Vandel’s arrest, Murdock said that’s changing at Lyndon.
“They (PSC) will notify a school if a red flag comes up on somebody’s license. We were (previously) not part of that. I would venture to say private schools don’t go in that direction. That is a public school commission,” said Murdock. “That’s an adjustment that I’ve made. We’ve asked to be registered with them.”
Jose asked Murdock if she should have investigated Vandel’s prior suspensions further.
“Yes. Back at that time, I trusted the state of Georgia,” Murdock said.
Murdock said she fired Vandel 15 minutes after his arrest. A no trespassing order bars him from returning to campus.
The admissions director revealed a dozen students have unenrolled since Vandel’s arrest.
The GBI believes there are potentially more victims across the state where Vandel previously taught.
He remains in the Fulton County jail.
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