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Social media message prompts lockout at South Sioux schools

SOUTH SIOUX CITY -- A potential threat made on social media led South Sioux City Community Schools administrators to place the district's high school and middle school on lockout for nearly three hours Wednesday afternoon.

The male South Sioux City High School student who sent the message could face criminal charges, police said late Wednesday. The incident remains under investigation.

Police said the student, who is over age 18, sent a Snapchat message saying "everything's ready for tomorrow" to another student at about 12:30 p.m.

"The kids that read it were concerned what that meant," South Sioux City police Lt. Chris Chernock said.

The students reported the message to school administrators, and school resource officers were notified and began an investigation. The high school and middle school were placed on lockout as a precaution after the district's threat assessment team reviewed the message, superintendent Todd Strom said. The district's six elementary schools were not included in the lockout.

Students were not allowed to leave the buildings, and no one was allowed to enter until police determined the threat was not credible. Students were dismissed from the high school, 3301 G St., and the middle school, which is connected, as usual when the lockout was ended at 3:25 p.m.

The district notified parents and the public and kept them abreast of the situation on its Twitter account, Facebook page and with automated telephone calls.

"We're unfortunately going to gain experience in a situation such as this," Strom said. "For the most part, our communication has been good."

Strom praised the students who reported the message to authorities.

"In this case, a threat was brought forward by a student. We respect that and hope it continues," Strom said. "Ultimately, it's in the hands of the students to maintain a safe environment and respect each other."

Chernock said the student, who was not identified, had been called in sick Wednesday morning and was supposed to be at home. When police visited the student's address, the adults there said they did not know the student. The student who received the message told police the person who sent the message might be living in a mobile home on Gordon Drive in Sioux City.

Sioux City police located the suspect there and took him to the Sioux City Police Department for questioning without incident, Sioux City police Lt. Chris Groves said.


Crime-and-courts
top story
Iowa launches changes to jury summons

SIOUX CITY -- Iowa court administrators hope that a new way of notifying potential jurors will increase the number of Iowans who report for jury duty.

On Monday, the state announced that residents picked for jury duty will no longer receive paper juror questionnaires in the mail with a summons. Instead, they will receive a post card with information on how to complete the questionnaire online.

The state anticipates the change will lead to a better response rate from potential jurors because they will be able to complete the questionnaire electronically at any time, said Todd Nuccio, state court administrator.

"This will simplify the process and make it more convenient for citizens summoned for jury service," Nuccio said.

Iowans previously had the option to complete the questionnaire online or they could fill it out and mail it back to the clerk of court's office in their county. Woodbury County Clerk of District Court Amy Berntson said anyone who receives a post card notification but does not have a computer may call to request a written summons, or they can provide their information over the phone to the clerk's office.

Berntson said she thinks the new website is more user-friendly than the previous one.

"I think this site is easier to go in and answer questions," she said.

The new system will allow prospective jurors to enter a cell phone number or email address so they can be notified by text message or email three days before their jury service date. A second reminder will be sent 24 hours before their service date. Those frequent reminders, a new feature to the system, will hopefully cut down on the number of people who fail to show up for jury duty, Berntson said.

"I think there are a lot of positives that will help change it in the right direction," she said.

Prospective jurors in Woodbury County still can call the night before to find out if they need to report for jury duty the following morning, but Berntson said they also can go online to set up a text or email alert fort that information.

Berntson said the new system will save workers in her office the time of preparing questionnaires for mailing. The time saved will allow them to complete other tasks, though she anticipates a number of phone calls from prospective jurors, at least initially.

Woodbury County, which notifies about 400 potential jurors every two weeks, will see its first batch of post cards go out next week, Berntson said.

Post cards sent to prospective jurors will contain information specific to each county, including the website address for the online questionnaire, the courthouse address and map, a juror number, service start date, term of service and the juror badge.

The new process resulted from recommendations by the Iowa Supreme Court Committee on Jury Selection, which in March asked that state court administrators develop a new process for notifying citizens of jury duty and create an online questionnaire.

The Iowa Judicial Branch has added a new jury service page, with a link to the online juror questionnaire at https://www.iowacourts.gov/iowa-courts/jury-service/


Berntson


Crime-and-courts
Sioux City man arrested on felony drug charges

SIOUX CITY -- A Sioux City man has been arrested on a felony drug charge, after police said he sought to sell methamphetamine.

Allen Price, 21, was arrested by the Sioux City Police Department early Tuesday on the charge of possession of drugs with intent to deliver.

Court documents said Price was arrested just after midnight in the 2500 block of South Paxton Street, after he fled officers. He was found to be in possession of 19 grams of methamphetamine and a digital weighing scale.

Price was held in the Woodbury County Jail on bond. He has three prior convictions in 2016 and 2017 for possession of controlled substances.


Corrections
Clarification

The Le Mars wrestling team posted a 60-21 win over North at Friday’s Hinton Duals on the way to a 5-0 record at the event. The score of the match between these two schools wasn’t reported in a story that appeared on page D2 of Sunday’s Sioux City Journal. North went 4-1 at the meet.