NEW SHARON — The Mahaska County Sheriff’s Office reports that there is no credible threat to a student or the North Mahaska High School after the student received threats via social media.
The office was notified the night of Sept. 20 that a student from the North Mahaska High School received threats directed toward the student and the school building via Snapchat.
The threats were allegedly made toward the student when the student refused to send inappropriate photographs to the unknown sender.
“We don’t believe that there is any type of relationship between he and the student and no, we do not believe there is any credible threat to the student or the school itself,” Mahaska County Sheriff Russ VanRenterghem said.
Preliminary investigation determined that the sender was not in the vicinity of Mahaska County.
“Our investigation that we worked on well into the night last night, we don’t believe that the sender of the messages was anywhere in or around Mahaska County,” VanRenterghem said.
There was additional police presence at the school Tuesday.
“Even though in our preliminary we did not believe that there was any danger to anybody, we wanted to error on the side of caution and have extra people there,” VanRenterghem said. The second reason for being up there is we wanted the students and staff to feel more comfortable and we wanted them to feel safe. We wanted them to know we were there to help them in the event that these threats were carried through with.”
He said that the office has developed a suspect from outside of Mahaska County.
It is believed that the student and the suspect had no prior relationship, and VanRenterghem reminds students of the potential dangers of strangers on social media.
“When a situation like this comes up, it just reiterates that they need more training, the students do,” he said. “We recommended that all students up there delete any Snapchat person that they don’t personally know, and we are looking down the road to do some more social media safety programs with them."
North Mahaska Superintendent Angela Livezey said that students who do find themselves being asked for inappropriate photos by strangers are encouraged to contact administration. Mental health services are also available to those victimized online.
"Safety is of utmost importance to us here at North Mahaska and it's sad that our students are subject to those predators on the internet," Livezey said.
The investigation is still ongoing and the Sheriff’s Office is working closely with school officials. The New Sharon Police Department and Mahaska County Dispatch Center assisted in the investigation.