A Ripon High School student was arrested Friday evening related to what Ripon Area School District officials have described as “a message in one of the restrooms at Ripon High School threatening 17 Ripon High School students” and one teacher.

   The student could face charges as serious as making terrorist threats, and may face expulsion, according to the Ripon Area School District.

   This caps several days of concern within the district after the message was found Wednesday afternoon.

   That message led to a soft lockdown Wednesday at the high school and the cancelation of all boys’ basketball games Thursday evening, not to mention widespread worry among students and families.

   An investigation began immediately into the situation among Ripon Police and district officials.

   That investigation concluded Friday evening with the arrest of one student, according to a press release sent out by Superintendent Mary Whitrock just after 10 p.m.

   That student has not been identified; suspects in criminal cases typically are not identified until they have been charged in court. It’s also not clear whether the individual taken into custody is a minor.

   According to the release, “at approximately 6:45 p.m., a student was taken into custody in reference to this incident and transported to Fond du Lac County Jail. At 9:00 p.m., the Ripon Area School District staff and city of Ripon Police Department met with the students on the list to give them the status of the investigation.”

   Whether that student is charged criminally, or how they may be charged, will be up to the Fond du Lac County district attorney.

   “The student will remain in custody throughout the weekend until an initial appearance before a judge on Monday or Tuesday. At that time, assuming charges are issued, the judge will set conditions of bond,” the district’s release stated. “... The student could face criminal charges up to and including terrorist threats and according to RASD policy, is subject to discipline up to and including expulsion.”

   “The Ripon Area School District and the City of Ripon Police Department have diligently worked together through this investigation process to bring some closure to the students, their families and the entire Ripon Area School District community. I would like to thank students and parents for their patience and support as we worked through this situation. Our counselors are available for any student or parent that would like to speak to them. Our goal now is to support our students and staff as they work to process this incident and begin to move forward,” Principal Randy Hatlen said.

   “Student safety is always our priority. We want to assure everyone that our school and district have a comprehensive emergency response plan in place to navigate safety situations,” Whitrock said. “The Board has approved the RASD Violent Risk Assessment Procedures document which is posted on the district’s website. This document outlines the process used in this situation, and it also outlines the proactive work school administrators and staff engage in with the City of Ripon Police Department to create a safe school climate.

   “We all understand the very real fear and safety concerns that impacted our school community. We want to thank our students, staff, and parents for being in this together with us. Our students have been amazing in what has been a stressful week and are to be commended for their resiliency. We have a wonderful caring staff who have come to school each day to support students while still doing their job. Many parents have reached out with positive messages of support to our staff which has meant the world to them.”

   The release added that school counselors and additional mental health resources are available to students following the incident.

For a full story, read the Dec. 12, 2019 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.