Suspicious Envelopes Sent to Schools in Alaska

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development is instructing school districts across the state to be on the lookout for suspicious envelopes containing white powder. Department spokesman Eric Fry says four school districts have received letters in the past few days and the Chugach and Tanana district offices received the first letters for a total of six districts so far. It was not immediately clear when the first letters arrived, but Fry said the FBI asked the department to notify school districts to be on the lookout for envelopes from an unknown sender in Texas with a Dallas postmark. This week, the Kenai Peninsula, Copper River, Southeast Island and the Juneau school districts have all received similar letters.

FBI Special Agent Eric Gonzales says the FBI was called when the first four were targeted.

“And we responded with state and local law enforcement as well as HAZMAT teams and the postal service to these different incidents and have collected the letters and provided them to the labs, public health service.”

Gonzales says results from two tests found the substance was not hazardous. Tests on the other letters have not yet been concluded.

School officials are being urged to leave any suspicious envelopes sealed and call the department of education, the FBI or local law enforcement immediately.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 18 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications with veteran Alaskan broadcasters Nellie Moore, D’Anne Hamilton, Len Anderson, Sharon McConnell and Veronica Iya. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori