FOND DU LAC COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A former Ripon High School teacher has been charged with child enticement and sexual assault of a student by school staff, accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student.
A newly filed criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News details the charges against Samantha Fitzpatrick, 28.
Fitzpatrick appeared in court via video Wednesday. The court set a $1,000 bond, which was posted Wednesday. The court scheduled a preliminary hearing for Jan. 5.
On April 24, Ripon Police received a tip from someone who said she had information about an "inappropriate relationship" between a high school teacher and a student.
Police spoke with another teacher at the school who told them she noticed the victim was in Fitzpatrick's classroom a lot. When the victim was in Fitzpatrick's class, he would sit next to her at her desk and she would talk with him instead of the class.
This teacher said she had heard from another student that the victim had told people he had sex with Fitzpatrick at her residence.
Another student told police that the victim and Fitzpatrick had "done stuff" at a hotel in Ripon. This student also told investigators that he had given rides to the victim to a gas station near Picket. The victim told his friend that Ms. Fitzpatrick was going to be picking him up there.
Fitzpatrick denied having an inappropriate relationship with the student or contacting him via social media apps. However, police say they found "extensive electronic communication by phone including the use of Facebook Messenger," according to the complaint.
The victim denied having a relationship with Fitzpatrick. He told police that she had given him rides and he had joked about having sex with her.
Phone records show 67 phone calls from the victim's phone to Fitzpatrick's phone. The victim's phone number had been deleted from Fitzpatrick's phone, but investigators were able to extract data.
Officers were able to view Facebook messages between Fitzpatrick and the victim. The messages were sent between Nov. 2016 and May 2017.
The criminal complaint states that an officer saw "sexually graphic messages" between Fitzpatrick and the victim. The messages include descriptions of sex acts they would perform on each other.
Some messages refer to apparent sexual encounters between the teacher and the student.
In some messages, Fitzpatrick expresses her love for the victim, according to the complaint. In one set of messages, Fitzpatrick appears to be soliciting sexually-explicit images from the victim.
Fitzpatrick resigned from Ripon High School in May.
An arrest warrant was issued on Dec. 5. That's when the criminal complaint was filed.
On Dec. 6, the Ripon Area School District issued this statement to parents:
“In May of 2017, the district shared the attached information with high school parents about an investigation regarding allegations of improper conduct by former employee Samantha Fitzpatrick. We are sharing this information with all district parents today as we are aware the investigation involving former employee Samantha Fitzpatrick is complete and a criminal complaint with charges has been issued. We have just received this information and will respond once we have an opportunity to review and understand the criminal complaint.”
In May, the district sent a letter to parents saying that Fitzpatrick had voluntarily resigned "after the administration addressed concerns about her unreliable attendance."
Statement sent to parents in May:
"The Ripon Area School District does not typically comment on personnel matters. However, under the circumstances, we think it is important to address some of the inaccurate information and rumors about the recent resignation of Samantha Fitzpatrick from District employment. As explained in a message to the parents of students in Ms. Fitzpatrick’s classes, she voluntarily resigned from employment effective May 3, 2017, after the administration addressed concerns about her unreliable attendance. Any suggestion that her resignation was based on another reason or that she was fired is simply inaccurate.
In December 2016, the District investigated allegations of improper conduct by Ms. Fitzpatrick unrelated to her attendance. At the conclusion of the investigation, the District notified the City of Ripon Police Department and other relevant parties of the allegations. The City of Ripon Police Department and the Ripon Area School District concluded there was insufficient evidence to open a police investigation. It is our understanding that new information was recently shared with the City of Ripon Police Department and they are conducting an investigation. The District will cooperate with that investigation as requested and permitted by law.
When rumors and other unsubstantiated information about current or former District employees is repeated and otherwise spread throughout the community, including on social media, it is likely to have a negative impact on the District, our students, and our community. As the 2016-17 school year comes to an end, we want to focus on the outstanding contributions and efforts of our students, especially our graduating seniors, and our staff members. Thank you for your cooperation and continued support for our District.
Thank you, Dr. Mary Whitrock, Superintendent Ripon Area School District “
Action 2 News will continue to follow this developing story.