AMMON, Idaho — When Dan Bezzant heard what happened to his son at school Thursday, he broke down crying.
The Ammon father was sitting in his driveway when he received a phone call from his ex-wife explaining what had occurred during school breakfast.
“Jackson was eating and three older boys started picking on him. They were saying he looked like a monster and kept calling him names,” Bezzant told EastIdahoNews.com. “Luckily an aide caught it, but hearing this I just broke down.”
Jackson Bezzant, who will turn 8 years old on Sept. 28, was born with a rare condition called Treachers Collins syndrome. It affects the development of bones and facial tissues and an estimated 1 in 50,000 people have the condition.
Jackson wears hearing aids as he is nearly completely deaf and Treachers Collins has affected his eyesight. The first-grader has already had one major surgery to rebuild his left eye socket and will need to undergo more procedures.
Because of the way he looks, Bezzant says people often stare at Jackson and make hurtful comments.
“The adults are worse than the children,” Bezzant says. “One time a woman walked past us and we could hear her say, ‘Did you see that little boy’s face?’ If she’s saying things like that, what are her children saying? How are they acting?”
Bezzant decided the bullying against his son needed to stop so he posted this message on his Facebook page Thursday night before going to bed:
“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. He is called ugly and freak and monster on a daily basis by his peers at school. He talks about suicide…he’s not quite 8! He says he has no friends and everyone hates him. Kids throw rocks at him and push him shouting these horrific words…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. His condition is called Treacher Collins. Maybe even look it up. He’s endured horrific surgery and has several more in the coming years. Anyway…I could go on…but please educate your children. Please…share this. This shouldn’t be happening…to anyone.”
People around the world immediately responded and, as of Friday afternoon, the post had been shared more than 2,500 times and had nearly 4,000 reactions.
“Several parents have contacted me and said their children want to be friends with Jackson. Some older boys want to pal around with him and make sure he’s protected. It’s pretty surreal,” Bezzant says.
Bezzant wants to make it clear that Jackson’s school is doing a good job at preventing bullying, and he doesn’t place any blame on teachers or administrators.
He says it’s parents of other children who need to teach their kids to be kind and accepting.
“I want parents to see my post and feel my heartbreak. This could be any kid anywhere,” Bezzant says. “Please educate your children and let them know that bullying is not OK.”
Bezzant doesn’t plan to tell Jackson about the Facebook post and wasn’t expecting it to be so popular. Folks have offered money and gifts, which the family is declining, and Bezzant has set up a P.O. box for people wanting to send Jackson cards.
Bezzant says he’s also learned about two other children in east Idaho with Treachers Collins syndrome, and they plan to meet for a playgroup and lunch soon.
“I didn’t think a simple Facebook post would get this big. I just hope this helps,” Bezzant says. “Jackson may not look like your ‘normal’ kid, but he is such a good boy and he’s got a huge heart. That’s what matters.”
Cards for Jackson Bezzant can be sent to P.O. Box 1563 Idaho Falls, ID 83403.