NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY-TV) – A community is gathering around a local family in their time of loss.
Déjah Jones, a 14-year-old freshman at Woodside High School, took her own life Saturday morning. Her family says it’s because she was bullied at school.
Déjah’s parents describe her as happy, full of life, hope, ambition and dreams. Family and friends are shocked by the unexpected tragedy.
The pictures of Déjah show a happy girl who was born on Sept. 11. Her parents always thought she was special because of the date of her birth.
She played volleyball at school, but there was a sad side, hidden beneath the smiles.
Her family says the cloud of bullying at the school, was at the very least, a part of what led her to take her own life.
“I do think this was caused by bullying,” says Déjah’s grandmother, Brenda Talton. “People have come forward and they say, ‘Yes, she was bullied’, and it has come from some of her classmates.”
“They talked about her. They didn’t like her because of a boy. The boy made fun of her, but we didn’t know any of that. My heart is broken because of all that. The pain, the pain I feel. I’m sorry I didn’t see it,” Talton said with great regret.
No one in the family says Déjah revealed any claims to them that she was being bullied, either at school or online.
The family met with Woodside High School Principal Jonathan Hochman. They did not get the answers they sought about bullying at the school.
“All they keep telling me is ‘without evidence or proof there really is pretty much nothing they can do.’ The procedures they have in place are not working,” says Lamont Jones, Déjah’s father.
Newport News Public Schools would not comment on the bullying issue as police continue investigating Déjah’s death.
Jones adds, “I am not going to directly hold you accountable because it is a system you are following, and for me it is the Newport News system what they have in place just isn’t working,” Jones said.
Woodside Senior Ryan Smith told us outside the school, “I’ve heard the girl Déjah was being bullied and she committed suicide.”
Her death is talked about everywhere at the school. Counselors are on site to help. The Student Support Specialists focused their attention on Woodside Monday. Each of the five high schools in Newport News has one Student Support Specialist who are trained to deal with bullying. The school reached out to students, and established a new “Report Bullying Hotline”
The claims of bullying are shocking and alarming to the school community. Smith says, “In all four years at Woodside I have never witnessed someone being bullied before, so this was a really shocking event to me.”
Here is advice from Lamont Jones who is a dad who just lost his child, “You got to talk to your parents. You got to go to people you love, and you’ve got to trust them whether you think they are going to understand or not, but you gotta to talk. That is the key.”
Michelle Price, with Newport News Public Schools, sent WAVY.com this statement:
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the Woodside High student who died unexpectedly this past weekend. As with any heartbreaking tragedy like this, the school division and the Woodside community are working with the family to support them during this difficult time.”
The high school distributed fliers Monday with information on a new bullying hotline.
Woodside High School also has a student Crime Line: (757) 591-3800. Students, parents and members of the community are encouraged to call the crime line if they witness an incident, feel threatened or have information that would be helpful in ensuring the safety of students. All information is confidential.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-(800)-273-8255.