Amari Allen was about to use the slide at the Immanuel Christian School playground on Monday when three white classmates appeared. Within “seconds,” the 12-year-old said, she was pushed down, her hands held behind her back as the boys called her names and cut off patches of her “ugly, nappy” dreadlocks.
“One of the boys put his hand over my mouth so I wouldn’t scream while they used scissors on my hair,” she recalled to The Daily Beast on Thursday. "They were all laughing, calling me ugly, and saying I should have never been born.”
The alleged assault only lasted “a minute or two” before the bell rang to signal the end of recess, the sixth grader said. The three boys took off running to go into their math class while Amari stayed on the slide, trying to collect herself before following behind.
Video: Former Immanuel Christian School Student Shares Message
“They ran off laughing, and I was just sitting there,” the soft-spoken teenager said. “I’m hurt that it happened. All I want to ask them is, Why?”
The Monday afternoon racist attack at the private Immanuel Christian School—an already controversial school where Karen Pence, the second lady of the United States, teaches art class part-time—has “destroyed” the Allen family, and they are now seeking legal and administrative retributions.
Amari’s mother, Cynthia Allen, told The Daily Beast that the family met with school officials on Thursday morning to demand the three boys be removed and updated policies be put into place to ensure “this doesn’t happen again.” Allen also said Amari filed a police report.
“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 family of the alleged victim to gather information and provide whatever support we can,” the school said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “We have also reached out to law enforcement to ask them to conduct a thorough investigation, and further inquiries should be directed to the Fairfax County Police Department.”
“All I am asking for is this to be resolved, if they can’t leave school, then I will,” Amari said. Her mother agreed, adding, “She’s in real pain but she wants justice.”
The 53-year-old mom said it took two days for Amari to finally admit the attack even happened. At first, the 12-year-old told her mother that the missing parts of her hair were the result of playing “beauty salon” with another friend.
“We continued to press her on it because it just didn’t sound like something she would do,” Cynthia Allen said. “Then she started breaking down crying, trembling, and shaking before telling us what happened.”
Amari said she “instantly felt better” when she told her family about how the three sixth-grade boys pinned her down on the playground. She said while one boy covered her mouth, a second boy put her hands behind her back, and a third boy cut her dreadlocks while calling her names.
“They called her ‘ugly,’ told her she was an ‘attention seeker,’ called her hair ‘nappy,’ all of these horrible things,” her mother said. “And when they ran away laughing, she just had to sit there and get herself together.”
Amari admitted she initially denied that anyone cut her hair out of fear of retaliation. The three boys—including one that used to be her friend—are in six of her classes and she said she was afraid they “would come after me.”
“They had scissors, so they could have done anything to me,” the sixth grader said. “I was afraid if I told the teacher they wouldn’t care.”
Amari’s mom explained that this was not the first time her daughter had been subjected to bullying by these three classmates. Throughout the school year, the boys have allegedly been “taking her lunch every single day and calling her names.”
“My concern is, how did they not see what was taking place, on the playground and all year,” Allen said. “Karen Pence, the vice president’s wife, works at the school. There is security and secret service everywhere. How did they not know!”
The Immanuel Christian School, which enrolls kindergartners through eighth graders at its campus in Springfield, Virginia, has been previously embroiled in controversy after its school banned LGBT students and demanded all employees affirm the belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
According to The New York Times, the school’s employment application requires prospective teachers to describe their faith and sign their initials next to a list of beliefs, including Immanuel Christian’s definition of marriage and stances on sexual identity.
“I understand that the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman,” the application reads, detailing that certain “moral misconduct” considered disqualifying includes “heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female.”
Pence, 62, has had a long history with the school, having taught from 2001 to 2013 while her husband served in Congress. And in December, the second lady decided to return twice a week to the private school as an art teacher.
Cynthia Allen said despite the school’s recent controversies, she is more concerned with its future and said she is planning to speak to administrators further about preventing another racist attack.
But for now, she said, Amari will not return to school.
“Amari is surviving, but this can’t happen again,” she said. “She is terrified, she has not been able to sleep. And she is strong, I can’t imagine if this happened to somebody else.”
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