Update, 3:40 p.m. ET: The Grapevine reported that people have been posting screen grabs of Keaton Jones' mother, Kimberly, making alleged racially charged posts and comments on social media in the past, featuring the Confederate flag. MMA fighter Joe Schilling posted a screenshot of similarly alleged racially charged conversation between himself and Kimberly Jones on Instagram. Since then, her Instagram has been verified, and she claimed that the posts were from a fake account.
A lot of celebrities are namechecking one very special person. So who is Keaton Jones? In a Facebook video posted by his mother that went viral, Tennessee local Keaton cries openly about being bullied. In the opening of the video, he asks "Just out of curiosity, 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. It’s not okay."
He then proceeds to detail what he's going through — people making mean comments about his appearance and popularity and pouring milk over him — before somehow finding the strength to give other victims of bullying advice, like "Stay strong, I guess. It’s hard but it’ll probably get better one day." So it's no wonder it's gone viral, with celebrities from popstar Justin Bieber to Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown posting about him. According to The Guardian, in the caption to the original Facebook post (which appears to have since been deleted), Keaton's mother Kimberley wrote that he had requested she take the video "after he had me pick him up again because he was afraid to go to lunch."
According to Knoxville News Sentinel, Keaton attends Horace Maynard Middle School in Maynardville, in Union County and is new there — he attended Knox County school until July 2017.
According to the same news source, his mother has written on social media that he was born with a tumor and in a different post, described a boy at a birthday party recognizing Keaton from his scars, with one which "goes all the way across his face." A different Knoxville News Sentinel article reports that the principal at Keaton's school, Principal Greg Clay, stated that bullying is "not as rampant [at the school] as the video would have you believe. I can't tell you what was done, but I can tell you action was taken with the children." However, the principal also stated that he wasn't aware that the sixth grader had been repeatedly bullied and claimed the incident that had inspired the video had been resolved weeks earlier.
Information on Keaton is relatively limited due to his age, but we do know that the sports world has already taken notice of his speech and two Tennessee Volunteers football players have already visited him. Keaton's sister Lakyn tweeted that he was "so excited" about the visit.
Lakyn's Twitter account also gives us further insights into how Keaton's doing. She retweeted a message which said "His family is setting up a PO Box so folks can send him positive messages (and maybe some cool stuff!)." We know from another tweet she retweeted that Keaton loves superheroes and Lego, if you're looking for ideas for stuff to send for when the post box is set up.
But coolest of all is the fact that the media attention has had a very real impact on the sixth grader's life. A GoFundMe site set up to "to help with this childs future" and fundraise for Keaton has already raised more than $58,000. Captain America himself has offered to take Keaton to the Avengers: Infinity War premiere. Similarly, Hailee Steinfeld has invited him to come to the Pitch Perfect 3 premiere with her. His speech has inspired a hashtag, #StandWithKeaton, which has been used almost 4,000 times on Instagram so far.
Keaton may be an ordinary boy just trying to make things work at a new middle school, but in speaking out about the very real, harmful effects of bullying, he’s had an extraordinary effect on the world. Here's hoping that his bullies feel a fraction of the compassion for him that so many celebrities and sports stars do.