Black Virginia Girl Says White Classmates Cut Her Dreadlocks on Playground

The police in Northern Virginia are investigating a report by a black 12-year-old girl that three white boys in her grade held her down, covered her mouth and cut off lengths of her dreadlocks on a playground at their private Christian school.

The girl, Amari Allen, who is in sixth grade, and her family said the assault happened on Monday during recess on the playground of the school, Immanuel Christian School in Springfield.

They said the three boys, whom they would not name, had been bullying Amari since the start of the school year in August.

“They put me on the ground,” Amari said on Friday in a phone interview. “One of them put my hands behind my back. One put his hands over my mouth. One cut my hair. They were saying that my hair was ugly, that it was nappy.”

On Friday, Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. of the Fairfax County Police Department said in a statement, “We are actively investigating an alleged assault on Sept. 23 at the Immanuel Christian School.”

He said his department was prohibited from providing further information because the incident involved children.

Asked about the allegations earlier on Friday, Sergeant James Curry, a spokesman for the department, declined to discuss details of the investigation, such as whether there was video, but added that the police were informed of the incident on Wednesday.

Stephen E. Danish, the head of Immanuel Christian, said in an emailed statement that the school was cooperating with the Police Department in the investigation.

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. We are deeply disturbed by the allegations being made, and are in communication with the young lady and her family to gather information and provide whatever support we can. All of the students involved in this matter have stepped away from school while the Fairfax County Police Department conducts an investigation.

The school said it had no record of Amari previously being bullied, according to an email sent Friday on behalf of Mr. Danish.

Cynthia Allen, who is Amari’s grandmother and legal guardian, said in an interview on Friday that Amari was initially hesitant to tell her what happened to her hair, but that on Wednesday she finally broke down crying about the episode.

“They called her ugly and told her she should not be alive,” Ms. Allen said. “They said she shouldn’t have been born.”

Ms. Allen said that the family immediately reported the assault to the police and that the middle school principal called her Wednesday night to ask if she had filed a report and for the name of the police officer involved.

“I said, ‘No sir, I’m not giving you that information,’ ” Ms. Allen said.

Amari said that she did not know what had prompted the boys to start bullying her in August, and that she was too traumatized to open up about the assault at first.

“I was afraid that they would do something bad to me,” Amari, who has attended the school for eight years, said. “I was afraid that the teachers wouldn’t do anything.”

Amari said the boys had previously taken away her lunches.

“They would eat it in front of me and say that I didn’t deserve to eat — that I should just starve.”

Amari’s grandparents, who are both church pastors, have kept her home since the family met with school officials on Thursday morning. She said she missed her friends and had school work to catch up on.

“I actually really like the school,” she said.

Immanuel Christian School is a private Christian school that enrolls kindergartners through eighth graders at its campus in Springfield, which is 15 miles southwest of Washington. Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, accepted a part-time art teaching position there in January.

Immanuel Christian’s website — which describes the school’s expectations of students, parents and guardians, and its employees — says that it does not accept gay students and that it requires employees to affirm that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

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