At approximately 10:57 a.m. on Thursday, Mansfield Public Safety Dispatch responded to a call reporting that a staff member at the Robinson Elementary School had opened a letter from the mail containing a white powdery substance.
At this time, Mansfield Fire Chief Neal Boldrighini said the employee was transported to Norwood Hospital as a precautionary measure.
“At this time, everything is looking great in the capacity,” he said.
The school was immediately evacuated, and students were transported to surrounding schools after the evacuation. Only the office employee was reported to have been exposed to the substance, and she immediately washed her hands afterwards.
Mansfield Police and Fire corded off the area and the Massachusetts Hazardous Materials Response Unit arrived to assess the situation.
“They came down as a tier 1 hazmat response and are in the process of entry and evaluation of the substance itself,” Boldrighini said.
Mansfield Police Chief Arthur O’Neill said his department handled the initial investigation on the local level.
“Overall, investigation is being turned over to the Federal Bureau of investigation,” he said. “This is similar to incidents in other parts of the country and other parts of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts… It’s a national investigation.”
O’Neill said that a very small amount of the substance was found in the letter. He added that an FBI lab will be analyzing the substance later. The letter was postmarked from Texas.
O’Neil added that the incident is a big concern for all involved, as the department had to call in a whole new shift to cover the school.
“I certainly hope it was not serious,” he said.
O’Neill added that so far, other such incidents concerning powdery substances in the mail have turned out to be benign substances.
The initial call to parents was put out through the school messenger system. Robinson Principal Kate Kristenson said that the evacuation went smoothly, and that a procedure had already been in place for similar incidents.
“Chief Boldrighini and I have done something similar before and we practiced and it went very well,” she said.
Massachusetts Hazmat Director David Ladd said that there have 25 such incidents in the Bristol County, the most recent being on Wednesday in Lowell.
“Everything that we have responded to in collective samples have all been deemed negative by the bio terrorism unit,” said.