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Lakeport school district to investigate after teacher arrested in Orange County

Lakeport Unified School District will launch an investigation into the conduct of a physical education teacher at Terrace Middle School, after the man was arrested in Orange County last week, the district superintendent said.

Ricardo Ruiz, 36, of Clearlake, was arrested by police in Brea the evening of Dec. 23, on suspicion of trying to meet with a minor for lewd purposes, police said.

Ruiz had apparently traveled the approximately 500 miles south to Brea to meet up with someone who he believed was a 14 year-old girl — but was actually a man who calls himself “Ghost,” who runs a civilian sting operation aimed at catching suspected sexual predators.

The school district, which was notified by police of Ruiz’s arrest by Dec. 24, placed Ruiz on paid administrative leave, said Superintendent Matt Bullard. In a letter to district families, he said Ruiz would not be at school when students return from winter break on Jan. 3.

Ruiz was hired as a physical education teacher at Terrace Middle School on Aug. 12, Bullard said. He was hired and vetted “in the same manner as all credentialed employment offers are vetted,” the superintendent said.

That includes passing a criminal background check, satisfactory reference checks and licensing and education requirements, Bullard said.

Brea police confirmed Ruiz had no previous criminal history.

Additional information about Ruiz’s employment at Terrace Middle School was not immediately available.

“The District’s primary concern is the safety of our students, employees, and greater school community,” Bullard, the Lakeport superintendent, wrote in his letter. “As such, we will fully participate with all law enforcement investigations.”

The district will also “immediately implement a local investigation into the conduct and behavior of the teacher in question,” Bullard wrote. “This investigation will be partnered with immediate steps that will ensure the safety of our student body and school community.“

A follow-up email sent Monday to Bullard asking for more information on the investigation did not receive a response.

Bullard encouraged any families with concerns or relevant information to reach out to the district office.

You can reach Staff Writer Kaylee Tornay at 707-521-5250 or kaylee.tornay@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ka_tornay.

Kaylee Tornay

Education, The Press Democrat

Learning is a transformative experience. Beyond that, it’s a right, under the law, for every child in this country. But we also look to local schools to do much more than teach children; they are tasked with feeding them, socializing them and offering skills in leadership and civics. My job is to help you make sense of K-12 education in Sonoma County and beyond.  

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