FBI arrests Springside Chestnut Hill Academy middle school teacher

by Barbara Sheehan
Posted 10/13/21

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Andrew Wolf, 41, a teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, on charges related to child pornography. 

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FBI arrests Springside Chestnut Hill Academy middle school teacher

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Last Thursday, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Andrew Wolf, 41, a teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, on charges related to child pornography.  The federal agency had investigated Wolf for his online activities over the summer, while he was on paternity leave. He was arrested at his home in Roxborough, where he lives with his six month old child.

FBI investigators were tipped off to the alleged crimes by Dropbox, Inc, a file hosting service that they say Wolf used to send and receive photos and videos the company suspected was child pornography.  Electronic Service Providers  are authorized to review content such as photos or videos and report anything they suspect of child pornography to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which in turn reports these incidents to law enforcement.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, located in the 500 block of West Willow Grove Avenue in Chestnut Hill has a current enrollment of 1,060 students from preschool to 12th grade, and is the largest independent school in Philadelphia. Head of School Stephen Druggan leads the 160 year-old school with a staff of 265, including teachers, administrators, and support staff.

Druggan met with middle and upper school students about the incident on Friday morning and issued the following statement to the press about the incident:

“We are all unsettled and upset by this news and acted immediately to inform our community of the situation as well as put Mr. Wolf on administrative leave. We do not anticipate his return. We are working closely with the FBI on their investigation, which was prompted by activity that occurred outside of SCH…SCH has absolutely no tolerance for such activity and is unyielding in its commitment to the safety of our students.”

In an email message sent to families on Thursday, Druggan told parents that “We can confirm that Mr. Wolf’s background clearances are up-to-date and contained no information regarding prior criminal history.”

Karen Tracy, Director of Marketing and Communications for the school, said that Wolf was a middle school math teacher and had been at the school since 2004.  

When asked about reactions among students and their families, Tracy indicated that “Parents and students appreciate our transparency and the fact that we are working with the FBI.”   She confirmed that, “As of now, we have not heard that any SCH students have had negative contact with Mr. Wolf.”

The complaint was filed on July 10, 2021, and signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Lynn Sitarski, USMJ on Thursday, October 7.  Wolf is accused on three counts: Receipt and attempted receipt of child pornography; Distribution and attempted distribution of child pornography; and Willfully causing the distribution of child pornography.

Several parents and other family members who we contacted were reluctant to comment publicly on Wolf’s arrest.

A grandmother from Flourtown, whose grandson started as a new middle school student at SCH this fall, said “I’m just glad they caught him before my grandson started school there.”

A Mount Airy mother, who is a host parent for an international student in the upper school, said “I don’t even know what to say except that with SCH’s reputation…it is really disturbing and shocking.”  The student did not have any classes with the teacher, and the mother reasoned that “If he was never caught before, how would they know what he did?” In a more general sense, the incident inflamed her worries about the contacts that children are making over social media.

In the FBI complaint, agents said they found three files in Wolf’s Dropbox account depicting sexually-explicit photos or videos of minors.  Agents also found an Instagram account they say that Wolf used to actively solicit and pay for videos from boys judged to be between 10 and 14 years old, showing the boys in compromising poses and performing sexual acts.  The complaint quotes from specific conversations over Instagram between Wolf and the boys, in which he asked them how old they were. 

Wolf was held in a federal detention center overnight, arraigned on Friday, and was expected to be in custody at least until Tuesday, when his detention hearing is scheduled.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, which is listed in the top 25 private schools in the Philadelphia area, has a long and storied tradition in Chestnut Hill. Many residents, part and present, have attended. And many send their children there.

Listed among the 2022 top 25 private schools in the Philadelphia area by Niche as reported in the Philadelphia Business Journal, SCH is an elite private school, which boasts many alumni from Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. Notable alumni include: Joseph Clark, former mayor of Philadelphia; Bruce Castor, former Montgomery County District Attorney; Pat Meehan, former U.S. Representative and Philadelphia U.S. Attorney; and  Mo’ne Davis, Little League champion pitcher and 2014 A.P. Women’s Athlete of the Year.

Tuition ranges from $25,100 for pre-kindergarten to to $43,100 for upper school students. About 40 percent of students receive some form of financial aid.

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