Viral video of Tennessee tween Keaton Jones tearfully describing the bullying he endures at school each day tugged at the heartstrings of America this week, prompting an outpouring of love, support and more than $56,000 in donations on social media.
“They make fun of my nose, they call me ugly [and] say I have no friends,” 11-year-old Jones said in the video posted to Facebook on Saturday. “… I don’t like that they do it to me, and I sure don’t like that they do it to other people ’cause it’s not OK.”
Such was the plight of Colorado fifth-grader Ashawnty Davis, who ultimately hanged herself in a closet at home late last month. The 10-year-old’s parents said Davis was bullied after a fight between her and a fellow student was recorded and uploaded to phone app Musical.ly.
Young Davis confronted the girl who she said had already been bullying her at school, according to her parents. However, the harassment endured after footage of the fight surfaced, proving too much for her to handle.
“I saw my daughter was scared,” Davis’ mother, Latoshia Harris, told local station KDVR. “She was devastated when she found out it had made it to Musical.ly. My daughter came home two weeks later and hanged herself in a closet.”
Davis is just the latest victim of “bullycide,” a term used to describe suicides attributable to bullying, whether it be in person or online. It’s happened to a number of children and teens over the last several years as the popularization of social media and other online apps have given rise to rampant cyber bullying.
In 2015, the National Center for Educational Statistics found that 25 percent of African-American students reported being bullied at school. Similar studies by the National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment found that bi-racial youth are more likely to be victimized at the hands of a bully than those who identify as single race.
Though suicides among children are still relatively rare, recent research has also shown links between bullying and self-inflicted deaths, as suicide rates among kids between 10 and 14 have increased 50 percent in the last three decades, the American Association of Suicidology reports. Some bullycide victims have been even younger, however.
In May, 8-year-old Cincinnati boy Gabriel Taye took his own life after being attacked by a bully in a school bathroom. School officials released hazy footage earlier this year of Taye being grabbed and thrown against the wall of the restroom before fainting. Days later, he hung himself with a necktie in his bedroom.
“Bullying, as many people know, can be a tremendously painful experience for a young person,” wrote Melissa Holt, an assistant professor of counseling psychology at Boston University. “The point has been driven home over the last decade by stories about teens like Phoebe Prince or Amanda Todd, who killed themselves after experiencing bullying.”
“[Now], all 50 states have some kind of anti-bullying law, and schools are increasingly being called upon to implement bullying prevention programs,” she added.
For Davis’ family, school leaders just didn’t do enough. The girls’ parents said the school did nothing to stop the bullying, though a spokeswoman from the Cherry Creek School District told CNN that the students were talked to about the fight and that their parents were called.
“When I got the call telling me that my daughter had been in a fight, they never gave me the opportunity to meet with the other parents to come to the bottom of the line,” Harris said, adding that if they were able to have that meeting, Davis might still be here today.
The family has since set up a GoFundMe page for their daughter to help raise funds for her burial expenses. So far, the campaign has received over $30,000 in donations. Plus, fallout from the Keaton Jones video, spurred his mother’s love for the Confederacy, has helped to shine a light on the girl’s death, which didn’t receive nearly as much media and celebrity attention.
A beautiful young sister named #AshawntyDavis committed suicide after being bullied almost two weeks ago. I didn't see any Black athletes, rappers or TV newspeople showing up on social media to hold any video protest marches and raise any funds. https://t.co/Y4vTJcOmnN
— Torraine Walker (@TorraineWalker) December 11, 2017
— THE MARATHON CONTINUES (@ROCKBETHENAME) December 11, 2017
I don’t even wanna bring race into this, Lord knows I don’t but it’s just crazy how a 10yr old black girl, #AshawntyDavis commits suicide due to bullying & there’s barely any outrage but #KeatonJones mom decides to post a video of her son and he gets all this media support
— DMajor🎶🍫🌈 (@KeyAndre91) December 11, 2017
I get the #StandWithKeaton h/t and all that everything that everyone is doing for them, but what about #AshawntyDavis, a young black child who was bullied and had a video of her physical assault posted on the internet, which made her kill herself? Where were these celebs then?
— Natasha (they/them/their) (@natashaxlb) December 11, 2017