A GoFundMe campaign that has raised more than $58,000 for Keaton Jones has been suspended amid controversy over the boy’s mother, Kimberly Jones. GoFundMe said the campaign is no longer taking donations and it is working to determine the next steps for the funds already contributed to the account.
Kimberly Jones, who lives near Knoxville, Tennessee, posted a viral video last week of her young son talking about being bullied at school, leading to an outpouring of support from celebrities, athletes and others around the world. But on Monday, she began to face accusations of racism after old Facebook posts showing her and her family posing with Confederate flags and criticizing Black Lives Matter protesters were uncovered. She has also faced claims that she has exploited her son to raise money online, though it is not clear if she has been involved directly in any fundraising campaigns.
The now-suspended GoFundMe campaign was created by a New Jersey man, Joseph Lam, who said he saw the video online and wanted to help. It has been set up “on behalf” of Kimberly Jones, and GoFundMe has said all the money would go to her and her family, but it does not appear that Lam has any connection to them. It also does not appear that he consulted her or her family before starting the campaign. Lam explained the current status of the campaign in a Monday update:
As many of you know I paused the donations as well as the comments. As I sit back and read these comments and watched the video again I feel I have to make this update. THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE MOM!! However passing judgement on her before you know her is a form of bullying. Condemnation before evaluation is the ultimate form of ignorance. I can’t even say for sure that any of whats being said is true. I don’t know the family personally and never claimed to have known them. This is about a kid who’s been bullied and not just one kid, Keaton, there are many unspoken cases about kids being bullied. We have to be the voice for the voiceless. In the video I saw a kid crying not just for himself but for others. To me thats a kid with a heart of gold and deserves praise. Im hoping that we can turn the money into something good whether it be for private school or college fund. Im in touch with GFM on how to proceed at this point. Thank you every one that donated.
Lam earlier wrote about why he started the fundraiser:
I came across this video on facebook of Kim Jones and her son Keaton. Keaton is being bullied at school. This video really touched my heart. I decided to do this GoFund Me to help with this childs future. I know that money may not be the answer for this problem that we are facing in our communities with bullying. One of my biggest fears as a parent is that my children will be bullied in school. I know its a big task to tackle but it starts inside of our walls and the values that we teach our children. This is just one case of thousands out there. How many of our children stay in silence out of fear for their safety or for the fear of being further unaccepted. Over 3.2 million kids are bullied annually. 160,000 kids on a daily basis skip school out of fear from being bullied. They just want to be accepted and to be able to learn in a safe enviroment. Im so glad Kim posted this video of her son. It shows how bullying can really impact a child. The video that she posted really touched my heart and felt compelled to help. This is best way that I knew how.
Adding to the confusion are questions over the authenticity of several social media accounts that purport to be associated to Keaton and Kimberly Jones. The only legitimate account appears to be a Twitter profile belonging to Kimberly’s daughter, Lakyn, who has been responding to both the positive and negative messages that have been directed at the family.
An Instagram account, @KimberlyJones_38, began posting over the weekend as Kimberly Jones, and initially directed users to another GoFundMe campaign. That account was quickly shuttered by GoFundMe, apparently over questions of its authenticity, specifically whether it was actually started by Jones. Lakyn Jones wrote on Twitter that the Instagram page does not belong to her mother. The Instagram is now pointing visitors to a Paypal account that also does not seem to belong to Kimberly Jones.
“Any tweet that’s not from this account is fake! I’ve heard of some fake accounts being made and I’m working on getting rid of them,” Lakyn Jones wrote on Instagram. “If you see any let me know!”
The fake Instagram account also gained attention after the user behind it exchanged messages with MMA fighter Joe Schilling asking for money, and then saying “what happened to us whites sticking together,” when Schilling said he didn’t want to be involved in raising money off Keaton’s pain.
“WELL WELL WELL AS YOU ALL KNOW I F*CKING HATE RACISIM TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT SOMEONE CLAIMING TO BE KEATON’s MOM HAD TO SAY F*CK THIS B*TCH!! Now this might be a fake account pretending to be his mom. But this person who is doing the go fund me account needs to be put on blast,” he wrote on Instagram.
Lakyn Jones responded, “That is not my moms instagrram (sic). Her’s is private and she hasn’t been posting anything.”
“The Instagram KimberlyJones_38 is NOT my mom. She has a private Instagram and hasn’t talked to anyone. We haven’t received any money and don’t plan on it. The gofundme’s aren’t by any of us,” Lakyn Jones wrote. “Those who know me and my family know we aren’t racist. My brother doesn’t say the “N” word. Please leave it alone.”
About the GoFundMe, she wrote, “The gofundme is a real one but we don’t have the money and haven’t heard the man since. … My mom is only on Facebook and hasn’t told anyone to donate.”
While many have accused Kimberly Jones of posting the video of her son, which you can watch here, in order to raise money, it is not clear if that is true. The original video did not have any requests for donations and the family hasn’t asked for anything except support.
“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,” Kimberly wrote on Facebook. “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.”
In response to the video, the principal of Keaton’s school, Greg Clay, told the Knoxville News, he was not aware of Keaton being repeatedly bullied, and said he thought the issue was resolved several weeks ago, adding “It’s not as rampant 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.”