Former Wheaton Professor Sentenced for Possessing Child Pornography


Nicole Spewak | Editor in Chief 

Former professor of Christian education Donald Ratcliff was sentenced to 42 months in prison on Tuesday, Feb. 26, for possessing child pornography.

Police arrested Ratcliff on March 1, 2012, after an undercover operation by detectives from the Carol Stream Police Department revealed that Ratcliff was accessing pornographic material, a press release issued by the DuPage County State’s Attorney said.

Police found between 500 and 1,000 images and videos containing child pornography at Ratcliff’s home. 

At a court date in August 2013, Ratcliff pleaded guilty to one count of child pornography.

Ratcliff began teaching at Wheaton College in 2006. He specialized in child psychology and wrote several books on child development and spirituality. 

Following his arrest, Wheaton placed Ratcliff on administrative leave.

On March 14, 2012, Ratcliff was fired from his professor position at Wheaton College.

“Wheaton College is a Christian liberal arts college with shared moral commitments and expectations for all members of our community,” a March 7, 2012, Wheaton College press release said. “As a Christian community, we find pornography morally objectionable. Our Community Covenant states, in part, ‘Scripture condemns … sexual immorality, such as the use of pornography.’ Child pornography, by its very nature, always involves victimization of the most vulnerable, and thus is particularly abhorrent.”

Provost Stanton Jones said, “His (Ratcliff’s) relationship with the institution came to an end with the termination of his employment. … In his initial discussions about what he did and did not do it was very clear that his behavior was outside the boundaries of the community covenant and that was the basis on which his employment was terminated and beyond that we don’t really have an institutional response to his situation.”

Members of the Wheaton community have reached out to Ratcliff since his arrest.

“We’ve reached out pastorally and on a personal basis with Dr. Ratcliff on several points,” Jones said. “I’ve been quite impressed and moved by how several people who have been his associates over time have just really extended themselves to reach out to him and care for him as an individual. Not in any sense of contesting the seriousness of what he did, but that every human being deserves to be treated with grace and mercy.” 

A Wheaton TribLocal article on Ratcliff’s sentencing reported a statement by Ratcliff: “‘I am a fallen man,’ Donald Ratcliff told a DuPage County judge. ‘I was given great opportunities and I squandered them.’”

After his arrest, Ratcliff has been separated from his family and his wife has filed for divorce.

Ratcliff will be required to serve 50 percent of his sentence before being eligible for parole.

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