Community mourns student who died in Delaware school assault

Saturday, April 23, 2016
EMBED <>More Videos

Students at a Delaware school are still coming to terms with the tragic death of a classmate, who died following an assault in a bathroom.

WILMINGTON, Del. (WPVI) -- Students at a Delaware school are still coming to terms with the tragic death of a classmate, who died following an assault in a bathroom.

Amy Joyner-Francis, 16, died after being assaulted by two other students on Thursday morning at the Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington. Her exact cause of death remains under investigation and, so far, no charges have been filed.

Classes resumed Friday, with grief counselors and other district officials meeting with students as they arrived at Howard. Classes dismissed early for the day in the wake of the incident.

A memorial grew outside of the school, as students and staff members offered hugs to one another, trying to find comfort.

"My baby is gone, and it hurts me to the core cause I never expected that I had to be up here saying rest in peace to one of my friends," said close friend Andrea Wisher.

Wisher joined about 100 others outside the school for another prayer vigil Friday night for Amy.

"This not a young lady who was involved in street activity. This is an honor roll student, manager of the wrestling team, whose mother and father were very engaged in her life, as well as her siblings," said Councilwoman Sherry Dorsey Walker, who is serving as a spokesperson for Joyner-Francis' family.

Her friends say Amy was known for breaking up fights.

"She didn't condone violence," said Wisher. "She was a lover not a fighter. That's how she was."

Her friends released 16 blue balloons - Amy's favorite color - to float away in the warm spring air in her memory.

"She was really special to me, and she had a bright future ahead of her, and it's sad it had to be taken away at such a young age," said friend Fahmee Flowers.

"She was only 16, she really didn't deserve this. She didn't even graduate high school. It's sad," said friend Donte Pickett.

At a vigil Thursday night, classmates, friends and parents prayed, held hands, and wept as they remembered Amy, a sophomore.

"Whenever we had a problem, she would come to us and talk to us, and I never would of thought she would be the girl that would get killed like that," said 10th grade student Atiyya Wilkes.

"She was real nice," said Shane Gallagher, a member of the wrestling team. "She treated us like family and we treated her like family, and it hurts our hearts we can't ever see her anymore."

Several leaders decried the scourge of violence plaguing some communities.

"That little girl got beat up inside of a bathroom," said activist Malcom Coley. "How many of y'all stopped it? Did anybody stop it?"

Others noted a sad irony: the school has an anti-bullying campaign that kicks off every spring.

"The anti-bullying thing that schools put on, they don't really listen to 'em," said 9th grade student Julia Scott. "It honestly has to take something tragic like this to happen for them to actually open up their eyes."

"We need to get prayer back in our schools, we need to cover our babies by any means necessary, we're losing too many," said the Rev. Margaret Guy.

The fatal assault, the first in a Delaware school in decades, shocked many locally and around the world.

"If this don't wake Delaware up, this don't wake Wilmington up, this don't wake Howard up, I don't know what will, but we all need to come together as one," said Maya Colfield, friend.

Mayor Dennis Williams had to take a moment to compose himself Thursday while speaking at a news conference, held a short time after learning the student had passed away.

"I'm so upset that the young lady lost her life today. Things like this shouldn't happen," he said. "My heart bleeds for the family, the kids that go to this school, administrators and our city."