A 24-year-old teacher's aide at a Fairfax County center for handicapped and mentally retarded students has been charged with 14 counts of sodomy and one rape involving four students at the school, officials reported yesterday.
Eric Anthony Wheeler, an employe at the county-operated Kilmer Center at 8100 Wolftrap Rd. since August, was arraigned yesterday in juvenile court in connection with 11 counts of sodomy involving three male students -- two 13-year-olds and a 17-year-old. Wheeler was released on $11,000 bond and a preliminary hearing set for Jan. 30.
Police said Wheeler also has been charged with four other sexual offenses, including the alleged rape of an 18-year-old female student at the school.
Wheeler surrendered to police Monday night in connection with the alleged incidents, which have angered many parents of students at the school. Some parents have complained that school and police officials were too slow in taking action against Wheeler, an official said.
According to police, the alleged incidents occurred since the beginning of the school year last September. Police began their investigation a week ago after parents complained.
School spokesman George Hamel said the parents apparently discovered the alleged incidents after talking with their children.
Hamel said the students involved in the alleged incidents are moderately retarded and are unable to communicate well.
Wheeler has been placed on administrative leave without pay. He has not been to the center since last Friday, a school official, John F. Schreck, said.
A staff colleague, who expressed shock at the arrest, described Wheeler as "an excellent teacher's aide."
Wheeler is the second area school employe to be arrested in connection with alleged sexual offenses involving students in recent weeks. Last Month, a 29-year-old male math teacher in the Montgomery County school system was charged with committing a fourth-degree sex offense involving a 14-year-old female student.