The 11-year-old and his mother, Kimberly Jones, appeared on British talk show This Morning on Thursday where they said they aren’t sure when Keaton will return to Horace Maynard Middle School in Maynardville, Tennessee.
“I actually haven’t been to school,” he said. He added of his bullies: “Why do you bully? What’s the point of it? It makes me feel awful.”
Kimberly said that Keaton expressed that he didn’t want to return even to the middle school even “when the whole world wanted to come and eat lunch with him.”
“I’ve struggled anyway especially being this close to Christmas break, but after seeing how big it got, I mean it just seems like maybe we should let it die down a little bit before we made any decisions so that we could kind of have a reality of what life is gonna be like,” she continued.
However, Keaton’s emotional story took a turn when photos surfaced showing the family with Confederate flags. They faced more criticism when rumors circulated that the family used Keaton’s story for financial gain.
“I’ve said over and over, I’m an adult, I know who I am. I’m obviously sorry that it has offended so many people, but the backlash to my children…” Kimberly said during the morning show. “That’s something I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”
She added that the backlash has “brought the bullies out.” Kimberly also denied being racist in interviews with ABC and CBS News.
As the backlash seemingly began to subside, the family faced a new wave of criticism as photos from the Facebook page of Shawn White, Keaton’s allegedly estranged father, showed him sharing white supremacist propaganda. The pictures prompted Keaton’s older sister, Lakyn Jones, to defend her family in a tweet.
“You all can go look back at every tweet from every father’s & mother’s day to see that all we have is our mom,” Lakyn wrote on her Twitter account on Wednesday. “We have no contact with our dads. BECAUSE of their actions. That’s why all the articles say ‘estranged’ because we don’t talk to them. Leave us alone.”
Family friend Kaley Katz worked to shut down the criticism, telling PEOPLE that the accusations of racism are “rumors” and that it’s not true that Keaton is the target of bullying because he used a racial slur.
“The rumors are fake,” family friend Kaley Katz tells PEOPLE. “She is not a racist, Keaton did not bully anyone at his school, and she did not start the GoFundMe account in order for it to be a scam.”