Public Safety

Update: Suspicious package at Iowa City's Tate High School identified as college guides

Police call false alarm; box filled with paper products

Photograph of Tate High School in Iowa City 

(Contributed from the Iowa City Community School District)
Photograph of Tate High School in Iowa City (Contributed from the Iowa City Community School District)

Editor's Note/Update: The paper products which sparked the public safety response at Tate High School were the delivery of college guides from The Gazette. The box was delivered overnight via newspaper carriers. A corresponding letter explaining the contents of the box was placed inside the box, rather than the outside of the box. 

IOWA CITY — An unlabeled box found Thursday morning at Elizabeth Tate High School triggered class cancellations and a visit from the bomb squad.

Iowa City Police spokesperson Sgt. Derek Frank said the call came in at about 7:45 a.m. The box, he said, was addressed to the school, but it had no return address, no company logo and nothing to clearly display where it had come from.

Frank said the package was X-rayed by the Johnson County Bomb Team and determined to be filled with paper products. The incident shut down traffic on Mall Drive on the city’s east side for about an hour.

District spokesperson Kristin Pederson said the package was found by a school employee.

“It was found when the first employee got to the building,” she said. “My impression was that it was a box, but I don’t know with 100 percent certainty. We’re in a holding pattern until we know more from police.”

School employees alerted police, and the district decided to cancel classes at Tate.

All other schools continued with regular schedules.

District officials directed school busses that had already picked up Tate students to take them back to their pickup sites, according to an email the district sent Tate parents Thursday morning.

About an hour later, police gave the all-clear, calling the incident a false alarm and praising school officials for taking a safety-first approach.

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“School employees are commended (for) making student and staff safety the priority and notifying the police department to allow for a safe investigation into this matter,” police said in a statement. “Thank you to the Johnson County Bomb Team for their quick response and expertise.”

“This is the way we want something like this to end,” Frank said. “We’d rather respond and find it’s nothing, like a box of paper products, than find a bomb or an actual threat to the school.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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