A former assistant principal at Morgan County High School, Ryan Rickard, has been arrested and charged with rape, sexual assault, and sexual battery, against three victims, all of whom were students of his and one of whom is from Morgan County. According to a press release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI), Rickard, 34, was arrested on Friday, July 6 on multiple counts of sexual assault and sexual battery and one count of rape.
The charges also claim Rickard, held “supervisory or disciplinary authority” over his alleged victims at the time of the alleged crimes. One victim has come forward from Morgan County, and the other two victims are from Walton and Oconee counties. “We are encouraging any other victims to come forward,” said Nellie Miles, public affairs director for the GBI. Miles noted that Rickard’s alleged crimes span between 2011-2017 and the ages of the victims were 14-16 years of age at the time. Rickard resigned from Morgan County High School in March of 2018 amid a lengthy investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “Rickard had previously been under federal investigation for attempting to access child pornography online. The GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC) was requested by Homeland Security Investigations to assist with the investigation because it had elements of federal crimes as well as state crimes,” confirmed the GBI in Friday’s press release.
According to Superintendent James Woodard released a statement explaining the school system’s knowledge of the case.
“In 2017, when the Homeland Security Investigations informed the Morgan County School System of possible inappropriate behavior relating to cyber activities by Mr. Rickard, he was immediately placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation. No specific information was provided by the Department of Homeland Security other than Mr. Rickard was alleged to have been engaged in inappropriate cyber activities and they wanted to inspect his government-issued electronics. Their investigation determined that Mr. Rickard did not use school-related equipment while engaging in his alleged inappropriate cyber activities. Mr. Rickard never returned to school and resigned at the end of May,” said Woodard. “In 2017, when the Homeland Security Investigations informed the Morgan County School System of possible inappropriate behavior relating to cyber activities by Mr. Rickard, he was immediately placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation. No specific information was provided by the Department of Homeland Security other than Mr. Rickard was alleged to have been engaged in inappropriate cyber activities and they wanted to inspect his government-issued electronics. Their investigation determined that Mr. Rickard did not use school-related equipment while engaging in his alleged inappropriate cyber activities. Mr. Rickard never returned to school and resigned at the end of May. During the months leading up to the arrest, Morgan County High School Administration cooperated fully with law enforcement officials from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security. The GBI became the lead investigative agency months after allegations by the Department of Homeland Security of alleged inappropriate cyber activities by Mr. Rickard. We take the safety of our students seriously and took immediate action once contacted by law enforcement. We will continue to work with law enforcement to determine the extent of the behaviors that led to his arrest and will act in accordance with the information in the best interest of our students and their families. We are still awaiting the specifics of this case from law enforcement.”
Woodard pledged to be as transparent as possible to the public.
“We have been informed by the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has arrested former Morgan County High School Assistant Principal Ryan Rickard on charges of sexual battery, sexual assault by persons of supervisory or disciplinary authority, and one count of rape. While the law restricts what we can discuss in public when it involves students or personnel, we understand the responsibility that we have to be as informative as the law allows,” said Woodard.
According to the GBI, all three victims were allegedly abused by Rickard while he was their teacher and believe there may be more victims. “Child sexual abuse inflicts life-long mental and physical scars on its victims and the added abuse of power in this case makes the crime even more egregious,” said Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Atlanta Nick Annan. “HSI is appreciative of its longstanding partnership with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in the fight against child sexual exploitation, and we are committed to continuing this important work with our federal, state and local partners to find and prosecute abusers while rescuing the victims of these terrible crimes.”
According to GBI Special Agent in Charge, and Commander of the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, Debbie Garner stated “this type of cooperation and collaboration is invaluable in the effort to keep our children safe from predators who seek to harm them. This successful investigation was a partnership between all the agencies involved. We will continue to aggressively work together to protect our children.”
Prior to his tenor at Morgan County High School, he was a teacher at North Oconee High School in Watkinsville, Georgia. Rickard was also a teacher and Athletic Director at Memorial Middle School in Conyers, Georgia and was a student teacher at Burke County High School. He also lists himself as an active member of the popular megachurch, Athens Church in Athens, Georgia.
The GBI is asking anyone with information regarding this case to call the GBI CEACC Unit at 404-270-8870 or by email at Tips@gbi.ga.gov or HSI at 404-346-2300. For more information about this story, which up until now has been exclusively covered by the Morgan County Citizen, pick up the next edition of our newspaper hitting stands this Wednesday, July 11.