School bullies threw rocks at their young child, while calling him a monster, a freak and telling him he was ugly – all because he has a condition that causes him to look and sound different.
Seven-year-old Jackson Bezzant’s self-esteem dropped so much that he wanted to wear a mask and talked about killing himself. His parents, Dan and Kelley Bezzant, a divorced couple who live in Ammon, Idaho, didn’t know what to do.
Dan Bezzant beckons others to empathize with his son, whose facial deformity made him the target of unspeakable cruelty from classmates. Family photo
Dan Bezzant wrote about the bullying his son endured in school: “My heart is in pieces right now…my soul feels like it’s ripping from my chest…this beautiful young man my son Jackson has to endure a constant barrage of derogatory comments and ignorance like I’ve never witnessed.” Bezzant family photo
What his father ultimately did wound up attracting widespread attention. Even more important, they think it helped.
Jackson looks different than other kids because he has Treacher Collins syndrome, a genetic condition that affects bone and tissue development in the face. People with Treacher Collins, like Jackson, have very small jaws and chins, unusually formed ears, and eyes that slant downward.
Jackson also suffers from a 74 percent hearing loss. When he speaks, says his father, Dan, 42, he sounds like he’s underwater. He was born without cheekbones and underwent facial reconstruction when he was 13 months old, his mother Kelley, 43, said.
His mother figured out quickly that the bullying in school was becoming severe. Jackson, who lives with his mother, usually wears hearing aides and glasses. But once he started second grade, he refused to do so. “The other kids will “make fun of me,” he told his mother.
Even worse, Kelley told The Washington Post, Jackson came home recently saying he wanted to wear a mask to school so the bullies “can’t see my face and it hides my eyes.”
Kelley, through her tears, took the mask off of Jackson and told him he was handsome the way he was.
Jackson’s father Dan took to Facebook: “Please please take a minute and imagine if this were your child. Take a minute to educate your children about special needs. Talk to them about compassion and love for our fellow man.”
The message went viral, with neighbors and strangers reaching out with words of support and encouragement for Jackson.
One person told Dan he had met Jackson at a YMCA football camp and had an idea: “I have reached out to the team captains for Hillcrest football team and they would like to come to Jacksons school and have lunch with him. Would that be OK with you?”
Another person had some uplifting news: “I hope you both have seen there are good people who care and I know my boys, 7 and 6, would absolutely be friends with you Jackson”
Sunday night, two neighborhood boys and their mother walked over with a card, a fidget spinner and toys for Jackson. The boys had never met before, but the neighbors wanted Jackson to know they were there for him.
“Hey bud, I hope that some of the hard times you are going through will end,” one of the boys, a middle schooler, wrote on a card. “I personally went through some hard times myself and sometimes you just have to stand tall and do what you want to do and be who you want to be. If you ever need anything just come over.”
“This post has changed Jackson’s life for the better,” Kelley said. “He’s got a little sparkle back in his eye and he says ‘mom, everybody does love me.’”
The outpouring of support from people who read the Facebook post has been unexpected and far-reaching around the world, Dan, Jackson’s father said. He hopes that parents read Jackson’s story and teach their own kids about love, understanding and compassion.
“I just really hope that the message gets out there about bullying,” Dan said. “It’s bigger than Jackson. It’s everywhere.”