A 12-year-old girl who previously claimed that three white classmates cut off her dreadlocks in a bullying incident at a Virginia private school now says she made up the story.
Several outlets reported on the initial claim last week after the sixth-grader alleged that she was targeted on the playground at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Va.
The African-American girl alleged at the time that her classmates called her “ugly” during the attack.
Her original story did not emerge until her grandmother asked her if something was different with her hair, according to an earlier report from CBS News. That’s when the girl supposedly broke down and claimed that her classmates covered her mouth and cut her hair two days earlier.
“They put me on the ground,” the girl told the New York Times on Friday. “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.”
The girl’s tale captured international headlines and prompted the school to refer the case to police last Thursday.
Investigators later reviewed security footage from the playground and did not see the events the girl described.
The sixth-grader’s family met with the school to clear up the allegations over the weekend, and both parties put out a statement apologizing on Monday.
“To those young boys and their parents, we sincerely apologize for the pain and anxiety these allegations have caused,” the girl’s grandparents said in a statement, which was provided to the Washington Post.
The school’s principal, Stephen Danish, confirmed the allegations were false in a statement to The Associated Press. He said the school feels “tremendous pain for the victims and the hurt on both sides of this conflict.”
The girl’s aunt told CNN that her family is “devastated” by the incident.
“We are so embarrassed, and we are so sorry,” she said.
She added that her niece had a verbal dispute with the boys, but she appears to have embellished it.
The story bears a striking similarity to one that played out in Toronto early last year, when an 11-year-old girl claimed that her hijab had been cut by scissors. Her claim triggered a police investigation and widespread outrage from many, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Police later announced that the attack did not happen, triggering a wave of backlash against the girl and her family. They apologized after the truth of the case came to light.
Last week’s incident captured additional attention because U.S. Vice President Mike Pence‘s wife, Karen, teaches at the school.