MASON CITY | A Mason City Schools employee sent an email to a police officer to communicate a student's threat to shoot students at John Adams Middle School, delaying investigation of the incident because the officer didn't work until the next day.
A judge Friday morning ordered a 13-year-old male to further detention and ordered an evaluation. The judge also rejected a motion to close to the hearing to the public due to the nature of the threats.
Capt. Mike McKelvey told the Globe Gazette that a school employee attempted to notify police about the Monday incident via email. The police recipient of that email — no school official spoke to law enforcement Monday — did not see the email until arriving to work Tuesday, according to McKelvey. Earlier Friday, police said the threat and report were both Wednesday.
The nature of the threat was confirmed by Mason City Schools Superintendent Dave Versteeg but school officials were adamant law enforcement was involved.
Versteeg told the Globe Gazette the message was discovered Monday and officials reported the incident to the police that day, via the school liaison officer.
School administrators, he said, assessed the situation and were heavily involved in the investigation.
“There was never any safety concern," Versteeg said. "The student was not deemed to be a threat" but the incident did warrant police involvement.
“It didn’t raise to the level that students were threatened," Versteeg said. "The administration feels that students were 100 percent safe.
“It was a poor choice on the student’s part.”
Lt. Frank Stearns said police continue to work with school officials.
“We worked with the school system immediately,” Stearns said. “There was never any real credible threat at that time.”
This is not the first time the child has made a threat to shoot classmates. The student has been suspended from school, according to Versteeg.
Late Friday morning, the district posted a message on Facebook, noting "the district has not received any kind of threat to any building or any persons in the district today."
The post reiterated priorities for the safety of students and staff members.
"We know that parents and families are feeling scared and concerned and anxious about the safety of their loved ones," the post read. "We apologize for any confusion in regards to the timing of the reporting of this incident."
The child faces a first-degree harassment charge after threatening a shooting at John Adams Middle School.
According to documents obtained by the Globe Gazette and confirmed by the Mason City Police Department, a 13-year-old made a written threat on a desk at the school that he would shoot people before the end of this month.
According to Iowa Code, a detention hearing must be held within 24 hours of the child being detained, excluding weekends and holidays.
At a detention review hearing Friday morning at the Cerro Gordo County Courthouse, Judge DeDra Schroeder ordered continued detention for the child and that he be held for a 30-day evaluation.
Prosecutors made the recommendation given the nature of the allegations, as well as concern for the community.
The child's parents agreed with the order.
The judge also denied a request by the child's attorney, Parker Thirnbeck, to close Friday's hearing to media members and the public. He said that “with everything going on this week” considering the allegations, it would be in the child’s best interest to keep it private. However, the judge ruled the nature of the threats involved in the case warranted public access.
The next hearing in the case was scheduled for Oct. 12.
On the heels of increased occurrence of schcool threats in North Iowa, Mason City officials emailed parents and guardians of students late Wednesday afternoon. The letter was also posted on the school district's website.
Versteeg said the actual threat was not related to the email.
"The incident was in no way connected to the statement issued on Wednesday,” Versteeg said. “That statement was related to what we were hearing in the news. At no time were students at school in danger.”
The letter did not state that there was a threat made in Mason City.
That was repeated in the Facebook post Friday morning: "This incident at the middle school was in no way connected with the statement the district issued on Wednesday in response to the threats school district’s in the area and across the state and nation received this week."
It also noted that "the school district has not been made aware of any additional threats since the issuance of its statement on Wednesday."
Versteeg, the superintendent, told parents in the emailed letter Wednesday that there may be an additional uniform presence throughout the district.
“District administration is working with the Mason City Police Department,” Versteeg said in the email. “MCPD will determine if a threat is credible.”
Versteeg added that the district would take appropriate actions, if necessary.
“The school district and law enforcement will not tolerate threats or hoaxes related to student safety,” the letter continued . “All threats will be investigated and could result in consequences, including charges being filed.
“We will keep you informed if we receive any threats; and if threats are not found to be credible, we plan to have school as scheduled."