September 26, 2023
Tragic news this week after a Kansas teenage runaway took her own life in the midst of being persuaded by a law enforcement officer to return home.
Fourteen-year-old Jaylee Chillson was born in Manhattan, Kansas in the Spring of 2009. She grew up in Clay Center, where she enjoyed an array of outdoor activities like camping, hunting, and fishing. When she wasn’t enjoying her time out in nature, she could be found playing softball, and spent many an hour practicing. She had aspirations of becoming a diesel mechanic and enjoyed going along for the ride when her father was out in his semi-trailer truck.
When Jaylee wasn’t studying or indulged in her hobbies, she was taking part in the local youth group as part of the Evangelical Covenant Church which she attended.
Although her life seemed great on paper, and she seemed like happy girl, the tragic reality was that Jaylee had been bullied for years. According to the girl’s parents, Clay County Centre High School neglected to do anything about the constant bullying, which resulted in Jaylee going to therapy to cope.
According to reports, the teen would come home from school with bruising on her arms and once had rubber cement poured over her hair. It has also been reported that Kaylee's bullies encouraged her to self harm.
A male student, the victim's father said, "grabbed Jaylee's crotch in a sexual manner." He would also physically hurt her and take her money and personal belongings.
In post after her death, her father would go on to write: “(I)Watched as she was not included with girls on her sports teams. Watched adults on a school level repeatedly fail her. Watched as girls that were once her best friends not even acknowledge her when she would walk by them, and watch a handful of parents who used to gush about her and how amazing she was turn to calling her names and talking badly about her to their kids.”
Jaylee’s parents eventually had her transferred from Clay County Centre High School to Wakefield High to prevent their daughter from being bullied and harassed further. They say Jaylee continued to be bullied and harassed in her new school. The cruelty continued via phone call and social media throughout the summer with no break in the girl's suffering.
Despite meetings with school principles and promises that something would be done about the bullying, it continued. Jaylee's parents say their child was failed by the school district.
According to the Megan Meier foundation:
-20% (1 out of every 5) middle and high school students report being bullied each year (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2019)
-Youth who are bullied are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2019)
-Almost all forms of bullying peak in middle school, specifically 6th-grade students reported the highest percentage of bullying (29%) (NCES, 2019)”
On the night of Saturday September 16, 2023, at around 11:25pm, a member of Jaylee Chillson’s family made a call to the Cloud County Sheriff's office for assistance in finding her after they noticed she was missing.
Earlier that night, Jaylee had asked her father, Jeb, if she could go to a party in Aurora, to which he said no. She then said she was taking the dog for a walk, but this was not the case. Jeb was confident that his daughter had gone against his wishes and made her way to the party. Media outlets report that she had attended the party with a 20-year-old man.
A sheriff’s deputy responded to the call and drove out to a field by 210th Road and Lark Road near Aurora where a party attended by both high school and college students from in and around the area was taking place. He soon located Jaylee Chillson and they walked to his patrol car together as he tried to convince the girl to go back home. As they approached the vehicle, in front of witnesses, Jaylee produced a firearm and shot herself.
Jeb Chillson, who had been trying to track down his daughter, heard the gunshot ring out and raced to locate her.
The deputy attempted to perform CPR on the girl, but she was pronounced dead at the scene just a little after midnight.
At the time of writing, it is not known how Jaylee came into possession of the firearm, however, the investigation is ongoing. The case is also being looked into by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation who, according to a police statement, are conducting a death investigation of their own.
Jaylee’s parents have leaned on their faith to get them through their devastating loss, writing in a statement via Facebook:
“We ultimately know that the Lord, prayer, and faith is what will bring us home to our sweet girl one day. We ask you say her name, share her story, and do absolutely everything in your power to stand up to the dark, hateful, cruel people of this world.”
The victim's parents said that one girl was “was threatening to kill” Jaylee.
Jeb Chillson stated that other families in the area reached out to say their children had also experienced bullying. He described bullying at schools in the local area as a "pandemic," that desperately needs to be addressed.
Jeb also commented on the bullying in a Facebook post about Jaylee and the response of those he said bullied her, writing:
“I’m angry with those that hurt my baby. I’m furious with those I KNOW hurt her and will talk about her now like they didn’t play a part in crushing her. I’ve read days worth of messages from her “friends” that treated her absolutely awful.
“No one outside of our family and her therapist know what the last year of her life has been like.”
Bullying has lasting negative impact on the lives of victims and often leads to depression, anxiety, and poor performance at school. A bullied student may not want to attend school to avoid being bullied and therefore suffer academically due to poor attendance, which can result in a lower grade point average and testing.
Suicidal thoughts and ideation are not unusual for victims of bullying at school.
A GoFundMe page to help with the expenses of funeral costs can be accessed HERE<<
Jaylee is survived by parents, Statie and Jeb, her four brothers, Kaden, Colton, Noah and Hunter, and her grandparents.
She was interred at Greenwood Cemetery, Clay Center, on September 24, 2023.
If you are a victim of bullying or are having suicidal thoughts, please do not hesitate to seek help.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline : 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or call 988
Deaf Hotline: 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889)
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