A pre-teen South Carolina girl is believed to have committed suicide last week and family members are blaming bullying for her death.
Toni Rivers, at just 11 years old, took a gun and fatally shot herself on Oct. 25, according to state law enforcement.
The Hampton County Sheriff’s Office said deputies were dispatched to a home at about 4 p.m. after Toni’s 14-year-old sister called 911, according to local reports.
The incident report says the shooting happened closer to 2:30 p.m. and Toni was found on her back along with a rifle.
While the gun was her own, Toni’s stepdad told WTOC she’d never used it without the family’s knowledge at any time prior to Wednesday.
Toni was airlifted to a hospital, where she clung to life for 72 hours before doctors had to break the news: She was gone.
Leading up to the tragedy, Toni’s family said they tried multiple times to get officials at Hampton County School District 1 elementary school to intervene in what they say was the bullying that they believe led her to pull the trigger.
On three occasions, Toni’s mother, Amy Thomas, says she spoke to the principal about bullying at the school.
The family said six other parents with children in Toni’s sixth grade class have agreed to be interviewed and agreed to have their children interviewed as part of the investigation.
“My baby’s gone, but everyone’s got confidence now — you know, they can stand up to her,” Amy said.
School district superintendent Ronald Wilcox would not comment on the situation or the family’s allegations. He instead released the following statement:
“It is with heavy hearts that the Hampton One family mourns the loss of one of our students. Our sympathy and prayers go out to the family and friends affected by this tragedy. Counselors have been made available and will continue to be available to offer any needed support. Student matters are confidential and we believe it would be inappropriate to comment further on this tragic incident.”
In a post on a GoFundMe page created to help raise money for medical bills and funeral costs, loved ones wrote that their hope is to also “raise enough funds to also help create ‘Toni’s Law’ to help protect our children.”
“Toni was a beautiful, kind, and compassionate little girl. When the bullying began she didn’t want to burden her parents and lived the nightmare alone. This speaks volumes as to the kind of child she was! Once her mother was made aware of the situation, she notified the people she trusted and thought would protect her child while she was in their care,” the page reads.