Police are investigating assault claims levied by a black sixth grader who said several white classmates, all male, held her down and forcefully cut her dreadlocks.
Amari Allen, 12, said classmates at Immanuel Christian School, a private school in Springfield, Virginia, called her hair “ugly” and “nappy” while they pinned her down and cut her dreadlocks during recess.
Officials at Immanuel Christian School, where the vice president’s wife, Karen Pence, teaches art part time, told ABC News on Thursday that they’re working with police “to conduct a thorough investigation.”
Amari said the traumatizing incident happened during recess on Monday at a time when teachers and administrators weren’t around. That’s when three male classmates pinned her down to a slide on the playground, held her hands behind her back and clipped her dreadlocks with scissors, she said.
They also covered her mouth so she couldn’t yell for help, she said.
“I felt hurt but also angry,” Amari told ABC Washington, D.C., station WJLA on Thursday. “Why would they do this. … Is it only me that’s being affected?”
She said she tried to avoid telling her family because she feared retaliation, but she finally opened up about the experience on Wednesday.
“When I held it in, I felt like a weight was being added to my shoulders each day that I held it in,” Amari said. “Something could have happened that made them do this. I know that’s like the source of most bullying.”
Now, her family is calling for the boys to be expelled. They said they had a meeting with school officials Thursday morning, but they didn’t feel like the school took them seriously.
“I never thought about bullying being a part of this curriculum,” her grandmother, Cynthia Allen, told WJLA. “I want to make sure that no other child has to experience what she experienced and they just walk away.”
The family filed an incident report with the Fairfax County Police Department. A spokesperson for the department confirmed that it is working with the school to investigate the incident, but declined to offer details because it involves minors.
“We take seriously the emotional and physical well-being of all our students, and have a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of bullying or abuse,” Immanuel Head of School Stephen Danish told ABC News in a statement. “We are deeply disturbed by the allegations being made, and are in communication with the family of the alleged victim to gather information and provide whatever support we can.”