Kids at school can be beyond cruel. From children getting picked on by classmates because they're different, to being called names in person or online, to getting flat-out physically assaulted by peers because they don't conform to their version of "cool" or "normal," it's no wonder some kids dread going to school. Although awareness surrounding bullying has gained momentum in recent years, it's clear we still have a long way to go. Case in point: This boy who was bullied at school created a heartbreaking video, and it went viral overnight.
On Friday, Kimberly Jones posted a video of her visibly upset son, Keaton, after she picked him up from school because he was afraid to go to lunch. The emotional video shows his desperate plea for the abuse to end. "My kids are by no stretch perfect, & at home, he's as all boy as they come, but by all accounts he's good at school," the East Tennessee mom wrote on Facebook, reports Knoxnews.com. "Talk to your kids. I've even had friends of mine tell me they're kids were only nice to him to get him to mess with people. We all know how it feels to want to belong, but only a select few know how it really feels not to belong anywhere."
Kimberly posted Keaton's video just after 12:30 p.m. on Friday. By the Saturday evening, it had been viewed a whopping 10 million times. And it isn't difficult to see why. "Just out of curiosity, why do they bully? What's the joy in it? Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to them? It's not okay," Keaton, a middle-schooler, says to the camera, before his voice cracks and the tears begin. He goes on to explain that kids at school make fun of his nose, call him ugly and tell him he has no friends — in addition to pouring milk on him and putting ham down his clothing. (Oh, my heart. I just want to reach through the screen and wrap this sweet boy in bear hug.) Keaton continues:
People that are different don't need to be criticized about it," he says, with fat tears streaming down his cheeks. "It's not their fault. But if you are made fun of, just don't let it bother you. Just stay strong, I guess. It's hard. But it'll probably get better one day.
Keaton's heartbreaking video has managed to catch the attention of football players at the University of Tennessee, reports KSAT ABC 12. "Please let his mother know that we are trying to reach out," Jarrett Guarantano wrote on Twitter. "Keaton has some friends on the football team that would love to spend some time with him."
Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things also caught wind of Keaton's video. "Keaton, this is so accurate. Why do people do this?" the actress tweeted. "I think your[sic] sooo cool Keaton! I wanna be your friend ( but srsly) ur freakin awesome."
Patricia Arquette tweeted, "Keaton, you show here you have empathy. That's what is going to make you an amazing man & friend."
Delanie Walker, a tight end with the Tennessee Titans, created a video of his own as a response to Keaton. "I wanted to read a poem to you, by Buddha." Walker said. 'Our life is shaped by our mind. We become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.' Always remember that. You can be whoever you want to be." On behalf of the Tennessee Titans, walker then invited Keaton to attend a football game, offering four free tickets to his family.
According to Dosomething.org, more than 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year, and roughly 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying. So clearly, Keaton is not alone. Not by a long shot. I'm so incredibly proud of this young man for speaking out about his experience. I hope he sees this outpouring of love and support, and that his school takes immediate action to take control of the bullying situation there. I hope, too, that Keaton's video inspires kindness across the nation toward anyone who might be different or "other." #Weloveyoukeaton