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School shooting investigation prompts social media outcry

Kayla Henson / Forum News Service

DICKINSON, N.D. -- A single post on social media created a sensation over the weekend as middle school parents learned of a possible threat to the security of their children.

On Monday, Feb. 11, the Dickinson Police Department and the Dickinson Public School Administration responded to the “rumors” and concern raised by parents in a joint statement to the public.

“On Friday, February 1st, the Dickinson Police Department began investigating rumors of alarming statements being uttered by a student at the Dickinson Middle School,” Dustin Dassinger, chief of police, said in a statement. “This situation did not involve any direct threat or planned student harm. It was ultimately determined the majority of alleged statements were fabricated and had been made prior to the actual report to law enforcement.”

However, according to the department, the continued investigation into the matter took a turn on Monday, Feb. 4.

“After establishing that extremely vague alarming utterances had indeed been made, a 14- year-old juvenile male was taken into custody and charged with terrorizing,” Dassinger continued. “The juvenile was subsequently transported to the Youth Correctional Center in Mandan the same day. The juvenile was later returned to Dickinson the following day for a detention hearing. At the hearing, it was determined he posed no immediate threat and was released to the custody of his parents.”

A joint statement from the Dickinson Public Schools and the Dickinson Police Department, released on Monday, said “In response to questions and concerns surrounding a rumor of a planned school shooting today at our middle school, we would like to issue this joint statement informing our parents, students, staff and all community members, that this situation was thoroughly investigated and found to be nothing more than an unsubstantiated rumor,” Shon Hocker, superintendent of Dickinson Public Schools, said.

Some parents said that they weren’t satisfied with the handling of the situation.

“When that kid was taken into custody, we should have been notified, rumor or not,” Brittney Rushford, a parent of a 13-year-old Dickinson Middle School child, said. “I’m a little pissed off at the school. Nobody was notified about this until I went online and saw that the Dickinson Police Department had issued their original statement online. We should have been notified that day, not a week later.”

On the Dickinson Police Department’s Facebook page, Lindsey Southiseng pointed to the lack of understanding by the Dickinson Police Department and Dickinson School System about why parents are upset.

“The reason most parents are upset is because they were unaware of what happened in the first place,” she said. “If this type of statement would’ve been released when it happened, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Neither DPS or the police department has said why we weren’t informed, which is one of the main questions parents wanted answered.”