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Pep Rally 1

Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley and Investigator Jason Hugi, top right, and other police officers were present during the pep rally for the Mason City girls basketball team's trip to state at the high school on Monday.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette

MASON CITY | The investigation into a safety threat at Mason City High School last week is ongoing, officials said Monday, but they refused to provide a number of additional details. 

A student has been referred to Juvenile Court Services for threatening to bring a weapon to school to use against others Friday. 

The student's name, age and criminal charge has not been released. Court records for people under the age of 18 are confidential in Iowa, unless a teen is charged in adult court or charged with a forcible felony, such as murder.

Details surrounding the incident, which was first publicly acknowledged by Mason City Schools and Mason City Police Department about 4 p.m. Saturday, are scarce.

A student told school officials about the threat sometime during the last period of the school day Friday, Superintendent Dave Versteeg said via email Monday. 

“I don’t have a specific time,” Versteeg said.  

Versteeg in an email deferred to Police Chief Jeff Brinkley, saying “I think that is a question Chief (Jeff) Brinkley should answer” about the following questions:

• What was the nature of the threat?

• Was a type of weapon specified? If so, what kind?

• Was the weapon in question ever shown to other students?

• Was the student a high school student or alternative school student?

• Did the threat target specific students, staff, a building or the district as a whole?

“Administration investigated the threat and felt it was serious enough to inform the school resource officer," Versteeg said. "The school resource officer was informed about 4 p.m. on Friday.”

Versteeg said the school district decided to wait until Saturday to release information on the threat.

“With no school until Monday, we waited for MCPD to report on its investigation to us,” he said.

Brinkley agreed with the timing.

“Once we felt we had all of the information and were able to make a competent public statement about it, we did so,” Brinkley said via email Monday, noting the investigation remains active. “The timing of that process worked out that it was Saturday.”

Citing provisions of state law that Brinkley said prevents the police department from "releasing information related to juvenile referrals and officer case reports," he declined to answer the following questions: 

• What was the nature of the threat?

• Was a type of weapon specified? If so, what kind?

• Was the weapon in question ever shown to other students?

• Did the threat target specific students, staff, a building or the district as a whole?

• Did the department execute a search warrant in relation to this threat?

• What did the warrant turn up?

• How serious were the charges against the student?

• What specifically is the charge?

It is unclear whether the student who has been referred to juvenile court is still enrolled, or if he or she has been suspended or expelled. 

“I can’t comment on a student disciplinary matter,” Versteeg said.

Riceville Schools in Howard County canceled classes Thursday due to a shooting threat. A female is accused of messaging an person online asking him to "shoot up Riceville School," according to law enforcement. Neither party has been identified, and the FBI is investigating the incident.

“The recent events in Florida have not changed the way we handle incidents at schools,” Brinkley said. “We enjoy a good working relationship with our local schools and school administrations.”

Versteeg agreed that the Florida school shooting has not affected the way the district handles this type of issue.

When asked how the handling of this incident differed from the written threat at John Adams Middle School in the fall, Versteeg noted that every situation is different and the circumstances of each incident will determine how it is handled.

“Each incident is evaluated based on the specific circumstances that are known to us as we begin the investigation,” Brinkley said. “There is not a boilerplate approach to these incidents where one size fits all.”

Versteeg said that acts or threats of violence will usually be turned over to police for investigation.

“It depends on the situation, but generally any acts of violence against students and staff will be turned over to the police for a final determination as to its seriousness,” Versteeg said.

Officers were dispatched to Mason City High School about 12:30 p.m. for a "social media threat of violence that was to occur at an afternoon pep rally," the department said in a news release Monday evening.

The department said it met with school officials to "help make decisions about the balance of the school day," according to the news release.

"We supported the MCCSD decision to have the pep rally, based on the information known to us at the time," police wrote in the release. District officials said it was not connected to Friday's weapon threat. 

Uniformed and plainclothes officers were present during the remainder of the school day, as well as the rally.

The social media post is being investigated, according to police. No other details are being released at this time, but police say they will provide more information as the investigation continues.

Anyone with information about either incident at Mason City High School is asked to contact Mason City Police Criminal Investigation Division Lt. Rich Jensen at 641-421-3636.

Contact Courtney at 641-421-0534 or on Twitter @CourtneyFiorini.




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