WILMINGTON, Del. — A 15-year-old Delaware student has died after she was seriously assaulted at a high school Thursday morning, Wilmington police said.
Detectives from the homicide and violent crimes unit are interviewing multiple students who are considered persons of interest in the assault at Howard High School of Technology, according to a source close to the investigation. Two female students were taken to police headquarters for further questioning, police Chief Bobby Cummings said. The police said they do not believe anyone outside the school was involved.
Officers were called at about 8:18 a.m. to the high school, police said. High School Principal Stanley Spoor said the assault of the 10th-grader from New Castle, Del., occurred in the women's bathroom as classes were starting.
"My heart bleeds for the family," said Mayor Dennis Williams at a news conference at the high school Thursday.
"Things like this shouldn't happen," he said.
The girl was flown to the hospital in critical condition and later died from her injuries, police said.
After the news conference, Cummings said the cause of death has not been confirmed. He would not comment on rumors circulating about what happened in the bathroom. He said there were no incidents that he knew of in the preceding days leading to the assault and Howard is not known as a violent school, he said.
Nathaniel Kenyatta, a freshman at Howard High, said he is devastated by the loss of his friend who was an easy person to talk to. They met in their morning HVAC class, he said.
"She was very open," he said. "I feel bad for the people who have known her for years."
Community members are at a loss for what could have prompted this community tragedy. East Side community activist Beverly Bell fought back tears Thursday while talking about the young girl who died. Though Bell doesn't have children or grandchildren at Howard, the 70-year-old community member said she feels for the parents and families who are now scared for their own children.
Schools must be a safe place, she said, with hall monitors and administrators ready to take action in situations like Thursday's assault.
"We've gotta have people in place to watch over our children," Bell said, "because when a parent sends a child to school, it's not to get a phone call that their child won't be coming home."
Victoria Gehrt, superintendent of the New Castle County Vocational Technical School District, said the death of the sophomore at Howard High does not reflect negatively on the safety in the school.
Mayoral candidate Kevin Kelley said the girl who died was a friend's daughter but he declined to provide a name. He also said the incident is not reflective of Howard's safety.
"But it is a reality check of some of the things that go on in Wilmington," he said.
City Councilman Nnamdi Chukwuocha agreed, saying fights among women are not uncommon, especially in the city's youth. Many programs are focused on young, black men in the city, but Chukwuocha said too often, organizations overlook the needs of young women.
"Some of the worst fights I've seen in the community have been with the females," said Chukwuocha. "We need to address the needs of the young women. As of right now, I don't think we're doing that."
Last year, seven violent felonies were reported at the school, as well as 14 incidents of fighting/disorderly conduct, according to data from the state Department of Education. While only 10 violent felonies have been reported at Howard in the last five years, there have been 127 incidents of fighting/disorderly conduct, not to mention bullying, inappropriate or terroristic touching and sexual assault.
School was just starting when the assault occurred and some students were already in class when the chaos broke out.
A school resource officer with the Wilmington Police Department is stationed at the school full time, police said.
The high school was supposed to be the site of a Wilmington mayoral debate Thursday night on public safety, but the organizers canceled it.
Howard High School of Technology enrolls about 935 students in grades 9 through 12, according to the state Department of Education, and offers 13 career programs of study.
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