Vigil held for teen bullying victim
CHEATHAM COUNTY, Tenn. - Several hundred friends and classmates turned out on Thursday night, for a candlelight vigil in honor of 18-year-old Jacob Rogers. He took his own life on Wednesday, and those who knew him say bullying is to blame.
"This could've been prevented his freshman year, the first time he was bullied. If people had just stood up and said no that's enough or if the school stepped in and did something, then he'd still be here," said Kaelynn Mooningham, a friend of Jacob's.
Officials at Cheatham County High School said that Jacob had come to them about a bullying incident earlier in the year.
Dr. Tim Webb, the Director of Cheatham County Schools said that the principal spoke to the accused bullies and later followed up with Jacob who said things had gotten better. Now, Dr. Webb says, changes must be made.
"We don't want any child to feel like they're alienated or isolated to the point that they lose all hope, and that's what happened in this particular case," he said.
Dr. Webb said the school district has launched a full investigation, and is already looking for ways to prevent this from happening again.
"We believe sincerely the biggest intervention we can have are positive relationships between adults and children in the building," he said. "We're extremely sorry this happened, and we're going to do everything in our power to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Several members of Jacob's family also showed up at Thursday's vigil at Riverbluff Park.
"He was a loving child, he really was," said his great-grandmother, Annie Wilson. "And I just want the schools, and the world to quit bullying."
Wilson and the rest of her family said they were overwhelmed by the show of support from Jacob's fellow students.
"I just wish Jacob had known this many people loved and cared for him," said his aunt, Denise Johnson. "We wish the bullying hadn't occurred, but it did. And so his life isn't wasted, we hope this message gets out and somebody does something to stop this."
Jacob's friends say they will continue to draw attention to this issue. A petition intended to bring more attention to bullying at school has already gotten more than a hundred signatures.
"It's about the future, the future people that may want to do something like this for the reason, or the people who are putting up with it, but don't say anything. I'm trying to give them a voice," said friend Jonie Williams.
Jacob's visitation is set for Friday from two p.m. to eight p.m., at Cheatham County funeral home. His funeral service will be held Saturday at 2 p.m., also at the funeral home.