UNION COUNTY, TENN. - An East Tennessee boy who shared his story of being bullied at school said he's been surprised by the outpouring of support in response to his viral video.
Sixth-grader Keaton Jones and his mother Kimberly Jones posted the video on Facebook Friday, prompting reaction from thousands of people across the state, nation and the world. Several celebrities, athletes and lawmakers have reached out to Keaton since the post.
"I was just expecting friends and family to see it. Not half of the world," Keaton said Monday.
Keaton said he knows he's different, and he's the new kid at Horace Maynard Middle School. He said people pick on him for his looks and because he's new.
"I just don't fit in with the crowd, I guess," he said.
His video generated an emotional reaction and sent people like former UT football player and radio host Jason Swain into action.
Swain and UT quarterback Jarrett Guarantano spent time hanging out with Keaton over the weekend.
So I got the chance to spend the day with my new best bud Keaton. It was unbelievable to get to know him and realize that we have a lot in common. This dude is very special and has changed my life forever. Now I have the little brother I always wanted! God bless you my man pic.twitter.com/vMHVtnf2rC— Jarrett Guarantano✞ (@BroadwayJay2) December 11, 2017
"I just reached out and wanted to pair him up with some Tennessee football players," Swain said. "I figured the kid would love meeting the starting quarterback, so I wanted to get him with Jarrett. We met Keaton at the mall. Him and Jarrett just hung out, talked."
"We're all different, but we all have things in common," Swain said.
Keaton has even heard from Captain America actor Chris Evans.
"That one shocked me," Keaton said.
Stay strong, Keaton. Don’t let them make you turn cold. I promise it gets better. While those punks at your school are deciding what kind of people they want to be in this world, how would you and your mom like to come to the Avengers premiere in LA next year? https://t.co/s1QwCQ3toi— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) December 10, 2017
Keaton said he knows there's no quick solution to bullying, and that the video he made and all the attention it's getting might make things even more difficult at school. Keaton didn't go to school Monday, and said he might be out of school for a few more days.
But he's glad for the positive response his video received, and said it feels good to encourage other people who are bullied.
"It makes me feel good that I'm making a difference all around the world," Keaton said. "To inspire people that are bullied, it's just, give them a voice they might not have to speak out about it and explain how it's not right to bully."
The Union County Board of Education Director of Schools issued a statement Monday in response to requests for comment about the bullying Keaton said he experiences at school.
Director of Union County Public Schools James E. Carter released the following statement:
"To fulfill our mission of educating all children in Union County Public Schools, we must provide an academic environment that is safe, civil and supportive. We do not and will not tolerate bullying and have a policy in place that addresses conduct taking place on school grounds, at any school-sponsored activity, on school-provided transportation or at any official school bus stop. With any incident of bullying that is reported to our administrators, we follow the process of our policy and immediately investigate the alleged incidents. The privacy of all parties and witnesses to complaints will be respected in accordance with federal and state law."
The video was posted on Keaton's mother's Facebook page Friday, but on Monday, the privacy settings on the post had been changed so the video could no longer be viewed. In the original post, Keaton's mother Kimberly Jones wrote:
"For the record, Keaton asked to do this AFTER he had he me pick him up AGAIN because he was afraid to go to lunch. 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. 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."
WBIR is aware of questions about the motives by Keaton's mother on social media, and we have requested an interview with her. People online are voicing concerns about some of her previous social media posts but, in general, the focus of this story remains on doing something positive for a boy who says he was bullied at school and pushing to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else.
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