Parents say first-grader who died by suicide was bullied by racist classmates

"No matter what I said to him that Friday, the day before, it wasn't enough because he was already broken."

San Antonio parents Jermaine and LaKeisha Chaney suspect that relentless bullying led to the death of their son, Jeffery Taylor. In 2019, four days before Christmas Day, Taylor was found dead in his bedroom with a gun that his parents owned lying beside him. 

LaKeisha Chaney told KENS 5 that the day before her son’s death, Taylor’s spirit was broken and that he told her he did not want to go back to his school.  “No matter what I said to him that Friday, the day before, it wasn’t enough because he was already broken,” said Chaney. 

Read More: 9-year-old New Orleans boy killed in latest child shooting

The seven year-old was the only Black student in his class at Salado Elementary School where Chaney says her son was called the n-word, “Blacky”, “snaggletooth”, and ugly, KENS 5 reports. Taylor’s desk was also separated from the rest of the class and his mother said there were incidents where students destroyed pairs of the first grader’s shoes. 

Jermaine and LaKeisha Chaney talked to KENS 5 about the bullying their son, Jeffery Taylor experienced in school.

“When I went to that room, all I could do is just scream,” Taylor’s step father Jermaine Chaney said, recounting the horrifying moment. “I just ran back out screaming at my wife. She couldn’t hear me.”

San Antonio police ruled Taylor’s death as an accident and confirmed that he died at the scene but investigators have not said whether they looked for signs of suicide. 

In 2018, suicide became the second leading cause of death in Black children aged 10-14, and the third leading cause for Black adolescents aged 15-19, according to the National Insitute for Mental Health. The heartbreaking story of Taylor’s death echoes the others of Black children and teenagers like Siwe Monsanto, Nigel Shelby, and many others whose suicides have shaken communities over the last several years. 

Read More: How Black parents can start the hard, but necessary, conversation about suicide prevention with young children

In a statement issued by San Antonio’s East Central Independent School District, school officials said their community “profoundly mourns the loss of Jeffery Taylor” and “to this day, are in shock and disbelief over this tragedy” but that their investigation did not corroborate the claims of bullying. 

“We investigated the allegations further at three levels: Salado Elementary, student services, and the superintendent. All investigations did not support the allegations.” 

Roughly a year and a half later, the investigations have not brought much clarity or solace to Taylor’s grieving parents who are still unsure about what happened.  “I’m not sure what to think because my baby told me he was tired. With that different voice,” said LaKeisha Chaney.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is a 24/7, toll free and confidential hotline available to anyone in crisis or emotional distress. To speak with a certified listener, call 1-800-273-8255

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!