A 10-year-old died by suicide in Colorado after a video of her fighting with classmates went viral on the app Musical.ly. Ashawnty Davis was on life support for two weeks after her family found her hanging inside of her closet. Davis passed away on November 29. Her father, Anthony Davis, referred to his daughter as a “child of joy” in an interview with KDVR. Anthony says his daughter got into her first fight in October.
Davis’ mother, Latashia Harris, told KDVR that her daughter had confronted a school bully and the pair had gotten into a fight. When video of that fight spread online her father says, “She was devastated.” Davis was a student at Sunrise Elementary School where she was in the fifth grade.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Her Parents Want People to See the Video That Made Their Daughter Take Her Own Life
The above video shows Davis, in pink, fighting another girl. Davis’ parents told KDVR that their daughter was fighting a school bully. Latoshia Harris told the station, “I saw my daughter scared.” While her father said, “She was devastated when she found out that it had made it to Musical.ly.”
NBC Denver reports that the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office are treating Davis’ death as a suicide. The full investigation into the death should take around two months.
In a statement, the Cherry Creek School District said:
This is a heartbreaking loss for the school community. Mental health supports will be made available for any students who need help processing the loss.
We do not tolerate bullying of any kind in our schools and we have a comprehensive bullying prevention program in place at all of our schools.
The safety and wellbeing of students is our highest priority and we strive every today to ensure schools are safe, welcoming and supportive places that support learning.
We were made aware of that video when a media outlet approached us with it. We took immediate action in response, turning the video over to police and addressing the matter with students.
It should also be noted that the video did not take place during school hours.
A Cherry Creek spokesperson said that for the last 15 years they have had a curriculum in their schools called “Bullyproofing Your School.” The Denver Post reports that there had been no reports of bullying in Davis’ file.
2. Davis Dreamed of Becoming a WNBA Star
Davis’ parents told KDVR that their daughter dreamed of growing up to be a WNBA player due to her passion for basketball. According to her Facebook page, Davis’ mother Latashia is originally from Dallas while her father is from Sioux City, Iowa, according to his page.
While Ashawnty’s unclde, Dedrick Harris, has started fundraising page to create a suicide awareness program named Ashawnty Save a Life Progam. Harris wrote on Facebook:
This is my niece Ashawny and she is 10 years old. A few days ago due to being bullied in school she hung herself. We do not know all the reason behind this wonderful little girl doing this to herself. We will never forget this angle that touched the hearts of those that was blessed to meet and know this wonderful person.
My baby life is at all ended it has just began. We will make sure that no other family will have to face these dark time as my family faces. Please find it in your hearts to help send this angle home. The money will be used to place this angle to rest and all the other funds will go towards creating the Ashawnty Save A Life Program.
3. Davis’ Parents Believe Their Daughter Was a Victim of Bullycide
Davis’ parents told KDVR that they believe their daughter was a victim of Bullycide. Her father said, “We have to stop it and we have to stop it within our kids.” While her mother said, “I want other parents to know that it’s happening. That was my baby and I love my baby and I just want mother to listen.”
A feature in The Week referred to Bullycide as the Phoebe Prince phenomenon. Prince, a native of Ireland, moved to Boston when in 2009. She died by suicide in 2010 after reportedly being bullied by students at South Hadley High School in South Hadley, Massachusetts. The accused bullies pleaded guilty to bullying in 2011 and received sentences of community service and probation.
Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, a child therapist, told NBC Denver, “Suicide rates have doubled over the past 10 years and bullying is now really at crisis levels. What we’re seeing is that this has a tremendous effect on the fragile, growing brain of a child. It’s very difficult for that child to handle that level of input.” Dr. Ziegler added that parents should look for signs of having a suicidal child, “You’re not really eating well. You don’t seem to be sleeping well. You’re having stomach aches every day. You’re telling me you have a headache and can’t go to school. I’m gonna actually listen to your behavior or your body more than your words.”
4. Many Have Taken to Social Media to Pay Tribute to Davis
Many family members have taken to social media to pay tribute to Davis. One relative, Krystel Banks-Thomas wrote on Facebook, “My family has lost an angel….The emptiness and unanswered questions are consuming. Please pray for my family during this unthinkable time.” Here are some of the most poignant messages:
5. Musical.ly Says They Forbid Users to Be Under the Age of 13
Musical.ly has around 10 million users worldwide. Users are commonly referred to as a “Musers.” The app has many of the same features as Snapchat with users usually uploading a short video of themselves to share with friends. According to Cyberbullying.org, the app complies with the Children’s Onliny Privacy Protection Act in having a disclaimer that users must be 13 years old or older. Parents who believe that their underage child is using the app are asked to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Medium.com article referred to Musical.ly as the “first real social network that has reached an audience as young as first-graders.” Meanwhile a school in Australia, Wenona Junior School in Sydney, banned students from being on the app, in a letter to parents school officials said, “A number of girls have been… uploading performances in school uniform, which introduces numerous other potential risks.”