WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

How come the Tower Hill search committee (or consultant) that vetted Christopher Wheeler (apparently) found nothing suspicious?

With prominent alumni, corporate backers, and dollars to spare, the elite Tower Hill School seemingly has it all.

It has to be an object lesson that with all those resources, the search committee (or consultant) that identified and vetted candidates for the headmaster's position apparently failed to dig up anything incriminating about Christopher Wheeler. He had been an assistant head of school and dean of admissions at Lake Forest Academy - regarded as one of the best private college prep schools in the Midwest - located in the ritzy North Shore area north of Chicago. (Lake Forest's median family income: $200,000... per capita income: $77,000)

So did the committee thoroughly vet Dr. Wheeler? Did it just assume the outside consultant would do the job? Or, perhaps with such august credentials, things were presumed.

The key questions, at least to me: If the police affidavit that led to the search of Wheeler's residence listed accusations of sexual abuse going back more than three decades, at what point would a thorough vetting have uncovered such allegations? Or did they just come out fairly recently, AFTER Tower Hill hired Dr. Wheeler in 2004?

In an e-mail sent to parents, Tower Hill administrators insist there's no reason to believe any students were involved. But they've suspended their own investigation at the request of prosecutors. Parents have reason to be relieved. Yet we know from the clergy sexual abuse scandals that the recidivism rate in sexual abuse cases is high. Few perpetrators can just bury their urges on their own. Let's hope investigators can complete this case speedily.

By the way, what do you think would have happened if a public high school principal or superintendent had faced similar accusations?

Posted at 7:19am on November 5, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Tue, Nov 5, 2013 8:42am
Rephrasing the question... with what we know of all the details... How on earth could they possibly have ever found out?

The only answer is to do what the police did. Walk into his house and office and take all his computer hardware back to a shop, tear it apart and browse through everything.

If not done under a warrant, such an act is highly illegal and impossible to do for a search committee...

Which indirectly answers the question of your headline...

Tue, Nov 5, 2013 8:48am
And Allan, it appears upon a second reading that you do not yet know the allegations only came out after the Sandusky trial caused Wheeler's victims to search out and contact the guilty one. When he admitted to them his crime in a letter, they then took that to the police and the police came with a warrant in search of proof of contact with the victims, and instead found the porn in a file inside his computer.

The abuse is still alleged. The porn is real.

Tue, Nov 5, 2013 11:23am
It is rather difficult to speculate on this situation. We do not know the full extent of the charges. There was porn on his home computers. There is an allegation that he was a dealer of said material. We know little else.

Until we learn more details, we really cannot know how the vetting committee did not learn of his “side” business/interest. Someone involved might have been a customer or a fellow child porn enthusiast. I would suppose that those people network. But I doubt that he wrote academic papers on the subject. I also doubt that he listed the subject on his resume.

Tue, Nov 5, 2013 6:46pm
I'm not surprised the search committee didn't find anything on him. It's like any other crime. Take for instance, these mass shooters. How many of them have no prior criminal record?

If he wasn't caught "back then", there's no criminal record for the search committee to uncover.

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