Over the past month, the Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington school district has faced a pair of security scares.
The first, Oct. 15, involved three female students at RULH Elementary School, according to multiple sources.
According to the sources, one of the three called 9-1-1. While it’s unclear what they said on the call, what is known is that the entire school district went on lockdown.
The Ripley Police Department responded to the scene and both they and the RULH administration quickly discovered that it was just a hoax and the students were not in danger.
“There were students that made some prank calls to 9-1-1,” RULH Superintendent Dr. Linda Naylor confirmed in a phone interview. “In terms of figuring out what’s going on, the first info that we got back was enough to concern us so we decided to go on lockdown almost immediately. We then got additional info that it was basically prank calls. Then we almost immediately lifted the lockdown and both we and the Ripley Police Department conducted our own investigations.”
Corporal Joel Barnett, of the Ripley PD who responded to the scene, said that the student’s joke got out of hand.
“The problem was resolved within minutes of us arriving on the scene,” Barnett confirmed. “We’re supposed to set something up and talk to the kids on when to call and when not to call.”
According to Naylor, the students were disciplined by the school. RULH Elementary School principal Aric Fiscus declined to comment.
It’s also unclear whether the students will be disciplined by the Brown County Juvenile Court. Judge Danny Bubp declined to comment, citing confidentiality laws.
“Mr. Fiscus and I both talked to the students and said this is something you just can’t do,” Naylor said. “When I talked to (the students), I told them it’s expensive to call out to those resources, and we don’t think of it very much. We try not to do that when it’s a false situation, and (the police department) could be responding to your call that wasn’t real and then they’re missing a real call where somebody’s hurt.”
When asked whether the students had fully understood the message from the administrators, Naylor said “I certainly hope so.”
Naylor said that there are laws on the books for schools to hold safety drills monthly, and that if the schools continue to hold safety drills, they’ll be safer in the time of an emergency, even a false alarm.
“I have always told staff and students when an alarm goes off, whether it’s fire, lockdown, tornado, that you have to respond as if it’s the real thing, until we find out what it’s caused by, because we never know,” Naylor said. “When you have a situation and somebody’s under difficult circumstances it causes a problem across the building. It is a problem. It completely disrupts the school, everybody is either evacuating, securing, taking shelter, whatever that might be, and it induces panic. We take it very seriously. We talk to students about it frequently. Unfortunately, not everybody listens when you get these lessons.
Meanwhile, just one week later on Oct. 22, four men in their 20s gained entry into RULH High School with the help of a student.
The story was first reported by Local 12 and confirmed by Naylor.
According to Naylor, the four males entered the school through the gym, instead of the front door where visitors are supposed to enter. The front door has both cameras and a speaker system for school administrative assistants to verify who is at the door and whether to let them enter or not.
The males entered the school thanks to an unidentified student, who allegedly opened the door for them.
“Really and truly, I believe this student was being nice and friendly,” Naylor said, “But we live in a time where we can’t do that.”
Naylor said that since the incident, she has reminded all her school principals to put in their daily announcements reminders to the students not to open school doors for strangers, and to direct visitors to the front doors, where they’ll enter through the office.
Luckily for RULH High School, Naylor noted, video evidence shows that the four males who entered the building didn’t take anything.
According to the Local 12 report, the males were in the building for around 50 minutes. After an unidentified person called 9-1-1, Ripley PD arrived and performed a traffic stop on the four males in a vehicle not far from the high school campus.
It was later discovered that the four were under investigation for a break-in earlier in the day that may have involved a gun, according to the report. As of press time, no criminal charges have been filed.
In addition, Naylor said that the student who allegedly let the four males in the high school was not disciplined, but was reprimanded.