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Addressing Viral Bullying: Seeking Improvement Strategies

It’s unfortunate, but too often the bullying headlines that garner national attention are the ones that end in tragedy.

The pleas of students who feel ignored in school or at home are sometimes only heard after it’s too late—when they make the tragic choice to harm themselves or others.

But that’s not the case for Keaton Jones, a Tennessee middle schooler whose heartbreaking video about his experiences as a bullying victim has gone viral—inviting widespread support from celebrities and sports figures as well stirring controversy about his family.

As the New York Times reports, the story started last week when Keaton’s mother picked him up early from school. It wasn’t the first time. Constant bullying from classmates—including one instance where classmates reportedly poured milk on his head—made Keaton afraid to eat lunch at school.

Fed up and frustrated about the bullying, Keaton asked his mother to record a video in which he asked:

“Why do they bully? What’s the point of it? Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to them?”

In the video, a tearful Keaton describes the bullying he faced, including being made fun of for his appearance and being told he had no friends. The video ends with a hopeful plea: “It will probably get better someday,” Keaton says.

Watch the full video below:



Last week, Keaton’s mother uploaded the video to Facebook, hoping that Keaton’s message might start a dialogue for parents and educators in her network. She couldn’t have imagined the reaction the video would receive.

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By Tuesday, the video had received nearly 50 million views. #StandwithKeaton became a trending hashtag on social media. And, celebrities from the sports and entertainment worlds took time to show their support for Keaton.




As with many viral sensations, the constructive dialogue initially created by Keaton’s heartfelt video has given way to controversy. Questions about a GoFundMe account launched in Keaton’s name as well as offensive social posts admittedly made by Keaton’s mother quickly turned the national dialogue from Keaton’s plight to questions about his family.

Time will tell where the story goes from here. Still, there’s no denying that Keaton’s words touched a national nerve.

Have you been following the #StandwithKeaton story and controversy? What steps does your school or district take to discourage and report bullying? Tell us in the comments.