11-year-old girl killed herself because she was bullied, family says

An 11-year-old South Carolina girl shot and killed herself last week because she was being bullied at school, her family claimed.

Toni Rivers, 11, of Hampton County, shot herself on Oct. 25 after coming home from school, WTOC reported. The sixth grader’s 14-year-old sister called 911 after she found Toni with a bullet wound. Toni was transported to a Charleston hospital where she died three days later from her injuries.

Toni’s stepfather, Robert Thomas, said the gun Toni shot herself with was her own but the bullets were kept separately from the children’s reach. Thomas said he was not aware Toni used the gun without a family member knowing. 

Her mother, Amy Thomas, told WTOC she had contacted Toni’s school, Hampton County School District 1 elementary school, two days before her daughter’s suicide. Thomas said she had been calling the school for two months regarding the bullying Toni was enduring.

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Toni’s aunt, Maria Peterson, told WTOC Toni told "five of her little friends that she just couldn't do this anymore, and she was going home and she was killing herself,” the day of her suicide.

"We go out to Toni's home in the country thinking that there'd been an accident, you know?" Petersen told WTOC. "And when we get there, we find out that it wasn't an accident, and it was the result of Toni not being able to handle it anymore."

Miranda Cook, the mother of one of Toni’s friends, Kyra, said her daughter was also bullied at the school.  

"I've had to contact the school on several occasions because of the bullying at school," Cook said. "The child still continues to bully, making comments [like] 'you're ugly.' She (Kyra) actually got shoved into a bookcase and had her head hurt, and when she came home, she told me it was the same child that had been bullying her. But she said, 'Oh, I'm sorry,' as soon as she as she realized she was hurt."

Toni’s family and Cook want justice for Toni’s death and have called on the school to punish the bullies. A GoFundMe has been launched to raise money for Toni’s medical and funeral costs and bring awareness to the young girl’s death.

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“Our school system failed Toni. They’re failing all of our children. Toni’s family has lost a beautiful soul and the most infuriating part is that this could have been prevented,” the GoFundMe page stated. “We have to ban together to make sure we start protecting our children today. We have to fight for our children today.”

The Hampton County School District 1 has declined to comment on the allegations but released a statement expressing condolences to Toni’s family. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division confirmed it was investigating the incident, Fox Charleston reported. 

Toni, who was an organ donor, was able to give five patients “life-saving transplants,” WTOC reported. There will be a vigil in Toni’s honor Sunday at Wade Hampton High School.