HARTFORD, Conn. - A 16-year-old girl was stabbed to death inside a Connecticut high school Friday, and police were investigating whether a boy attacked her because she turned down an invitation to be his prom date.

Maren Sanchez was stabbed about 7:15 a.m. in a hallway of Jonathan Law High School in Milford, about an hour's drive from New York City. Staff members and paramedics performed lifesaving measures on the girl, but she was pronounced dead at a hospital, police said.

The suspect, also a junior at the school, was charged as a juvenile offender with murder. His name is being withheld because he is a minor, Milford Police Chief Keith Mello said.

The victim lived with her mother, Donna Cimarelli-Sanchez.

Imani Langston, who describes herself as one of Sanchez's best friends, said students were gathered in an auditorium when a teacher came and told them Sanchez had been stabbed.

"She basically just explained to us that Maren Sanchez got stabbed in the throat for saying no about going to prom" with the suspect, said Langston. Sanchez and the boy were friends, she said, but had never dated. Sanchez had helped to organize the junior prom, Lanston said, and was looking forward to attending with her boyfriend. The dance, scheduled for Friday night, was postponed because of the stabbing.

Sanchez, a junior, was in the National Honor Society and engaged in school activities, School Superintendent Elizabeth Feser said. Students were released from school early, and officials were offering counseling services.

"We are obviously devastated by the loss of one of our students, Maren Sanchez," Feser said at a news conference. "She was a 16-year-old junior - vibrant, very, very involved in Jonathan Law High School, an incredible contributor, someone who was loved and respected."

A cousin of Sanchez's, Edward Kovac, said the family was shocked and devastated. He described her as a "bright light full of hopes and dreams" as he read from a family statement and said more needed to be done to ensure young people were protected from attacks at school.

Students described an emotional, chaotic scene as police and paramedics swarmed the school.

Freshman Sarah Golden, 14, said she was sitting in the main lobby with friends when she was startled by several security guards running down the hall. Then she heard a voice on a walkie-talkie say that someone had been strangled.

"I was trying not to freak out, because it was really scary," Sarah said. "I just don't believe that something like that happened at my school."

Her sister, Rebecca, 17, a senior, said she saw the victim lying on the floor surrounded by teachers, some of whom were crying.

This article includes information from the Hartford Courant.