Virginia police are investigating after three boys at a Christian school allegedly held down a 12-year-old girl and cut off her dreadlocks, calling them “nappy” and “ugly,” reports say.
Amari Allen, 12, said she was on the playground Monday at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia, when three white sixth-graders allegedly attacked, WUSA reported. She said one boy covered her mouth and another held her down while a third boy used scissors to cut off her dreadlocks.
“They kept on laughing and calling me names and everything,” Amari told the outlet through tears. ” ‘Ugly,’ ‘I shouldn’t have been born’ … They took big chunks of my hair and just cut. The other kids were playing … and the teacher was assessing another situation.”
She said the incident made her feel like she didn’t belong at the private Christian school. (Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, teaches art at the conservative bible school.)
A spokesperson for the Fairfax County Police Department tells PEOPLE authorities are investigating the situation as a potential assault. The spokesperson declined to confirm Amari’s name and age because she is a minor.
Amari kept the alleged incident a secret for days until her grandmother, Cynthia Allen, noticed that the girl’s hair was shorter. The family then called the police.
Statement from Chief Roessler on alleged assault at the Immanuel Christian School. https://t.co/2A5T1A4xIN— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) September 27, 2019
“It was like she just died. That’s how painful it was for me,” Cynthia told WRC-TV. “Some consequences should be implemented so that the school will send a strong message: We will not tolerate this, under any circumstances. No matter who you are.”
A spokesperson for the school tells PEOPLE that the three boys “have stepped away from school” while police investigate.
“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,” school officials said in a statement.
“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,” school officials added.
Amari told WRC-TV that she has attended the school since kindergarten and has always enjoyed it — until the beginning of the school year when the boys started bullying her.
“I thought it was very hurtful,” Amari said of the incident. “No one should be treated that way.”