On Monday, McKenzie Adams, a “bubbly” 9-year-old fourth-grader from Linden, Alabama, took her own life, hanging herself in her grandmother’s home, reports CBS affiliate WIAT. Her family says the suicide came after McKenzie endured months of racist bullying and taunts.
McKenzie’s mother and grandmother said that they complained to the State Board of Education about the cruel taunts the little girl was forced to endure at U.S. Jones Elementary School, most of which they said centered around her friendship with a boy.
“She was being bullied the entire school year, with words such as ‘kill yourself,’ ‘you think you’re white because you ride with that white boy,’ ‘you ugly,’ ‘Black b-tch,’ ‘just die’,” her Aunt, Eddwina Harris said.
On that Monday night, McKenzie, a bright student who dreamed of being a scientist, did her homework as she usually did, and then excused herself to the bathroom, Harris told People. Her grandmother noticed that she had been gone longer than usual and went to go find her, only to find the bathroom door locked.
Harris says that McKenzie’s grandmother got a butter knife and managed to unlock the door and found the little girl. McKenzie’s grandmother managed to call 911, and respondents performed CPR, however, McKenzie ultimately died at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital.
“The first couple of days [after the death], my sister cried herself to sleep,” Harris told People of McKenzie’s mother. “It was really tough for her. I’m using all my strength to fight for McKenzie. My fight is to get her justice.”
However, school officials are disputing the family’s claims of bullying, saying that there was no record of any reports of bullying by McKenzie or her family.
“We have concluded our internal investigation to the allegations of bullying which led to this senseless death. There have been no findings of any reports of bullying by either the student or family. The findings of this internal investigation are consistent with the results of the investigation of the Linden (Alabama) Police Department at this point in time,” an emailed statement by Alex Braswell, the attorney for the Demopolis City Board of Education read, according to the Tuscaloosa News.
Meanwhile, Linden Police Chief Robert Alston told the Washington Post that the bullying is still under investigation.
“We weren’t able to confirm whether she was bullied or not at this point,” he said. “We’ve talked to several officials at the school, and all of them said they have no official report of any bullying.”
However, McKenzie’s family, the police chief noted, is standing by their story, and Alston said that he had no reason to doubt their claims, acknowledging that he knows McKenzie’s family and that “they’re very good people.”
Jasmine Adams, McKenzie’s mother, told CBS News that she felt as if the school system failed her family, after Mckenzie told teachers and her assistant principal at U.S. Jones Elementary several times that she was being bullied.
“She told me that this one particular child was writing her nasty notes in class,” Jasmine Adams said. “It was just things you wouldn’t think a 9-year-old should know. And my baby, to tell me some of the things they had said to her, I was like, ‘Where are they learning this from?”
“Our trust was in them that they would do the right thing,” she added. “And it just feels like to me it wasn’t.”
Jasmine Adams did say that race was a factor in bullying, saying that a white family friend drove Mckenzie to school every day.
“Part of it could have been because she rode to school with a white family. And a lot of it was race. Some of the student bullies would say to her, ‘Why you riding with white people? You’re black, you’re ugly. You should just die,'” she said.
Sadly, this was not McKenzie’s first time dealing with bullying. She had transferred to U.S. Jones after enduring bullying at her old school in Linden, according to her family.
Tim Thurman, superintendent of Linden City Schools confirmed to Tuscaloosa News that McKenzie did attend Linden Elementary School in kindergarten from Nov. 12, 2014, to Feb. 9, 2015, before her transfer, but he also claimed he could not verify that McKenzie was being bullied, noting that all the administrators and teachers from that time period were no longer at the school.
Meanwhile, Harris, a TV host in Atlanta, Ga., has started a GoFundMe campaign for donations to “The McKenzie Foundation” which “will serve as a source” to stop bullying across the nation by not only assisting the bullied but the bully as well.
So far, the campaign has raised $3,365 of its $10,000 goal.
McKenzie’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the gym at U.S. Jones Elementary.