It started off an ordinary day for eighth grader Keith Bailey until he was summoned by administrators into the vice principal’s office at a Colorado Springs, Colo. middle school. He was confused and shaken. Keith had never been in trouble at school before, save for one minor incident months ago when he made an inappropriate remark that a fellow student “looked like a school shooter.” This time, it was much more serious.
For over two hours on Wednesday afternoon, alone in her office, the vice principal grilled Keith. “He said they kept asking him the same things over and over. They were just intimidating him, asking him the same thing in different ways, asking what he did to these girls and why he did it to them. ‘Why did you do it, what did you do, when did you do it,'” Keith’s father, Dennis Bailey, says. “They were vague the whole time. They never asked anything specific.”
Only after the two hour inquisition did the school phone Keith’s parents to let them know he was being suspended. But before they did that, they called the police. By the time Keith’s father showed up at the school, his son was being cuffed and put into the back of a police car as a crowd of students stood by ogling the scene.
According to Keith and his family, it all started a week ago when Keith and his friends were sitting around his house talking about online anonymity. Keith decided to change his Snapchat avatar into a black Bitmoji character. One of his friends, a girl, immediately noticed and within minutes told him he needed to change it back. She said it was insensitive and racist for a white person to use a black character as an avatar. Keith, stubborn as any eighth grader, laughed it off and said he wasn’t going to change it. The next day at school the girl, according to Keith, then started telling everyone he was a racist. The harassment and accusations persisted for days. Other students began threatening to beat up Keith, saying they were going to jump him after school for being ‘racist.’ Then the girl and three other female classmates took it to the next level, appearing to take a page from the Feinstein handbook on how to destroy your political enemies, they appeared before the vice principal to accuse Keith of sexual harassment and assault stemming back to the summer.
Keith had been friends with two of the girls. They attended youth group together at their church. “They hang out all the time. If he had been maliciously touching them since back in the summer, then they wouldn’t be going out of their way to walk by our house to go to school together. They go to youth group together, they carpool together. To any reasonable person, I’d think that these allegations would be obviously ridiculous, but apparently there aren’t any reasonable people anymore,” Dennis says.
Keith is an A and B student, plays football, takes advanced math classes, is well-liked by his teachers, and loves attending church. One of the girls, according to Keith, identities as a “feminist.” “He’s pretty scared. I was scared. He was crying when they arrested him. We’ve never been close to anything like this. We don’t know anybody criminal. It’s not something we ever thought we’d have to do deal with,” Dennis, 32, who works as a plumber, says. “I think the whole political climate is what is motivating this. Anytime you disagree with somebody, now you accuse them of sexual assault and automatically they’re a victim and you’re a monster. It’s so highly publicized now, that’s just the answer.”
After the arrest, Dennis stayed back at the school while his son was taken to the police station to be finger-printed and have his mug shot taken. But neither school administrators nor the police would tell Keith or his parents the exact nature of the allegations. He was charged with unlawful sexual conduct and harassment, which comes with a maximum sentence of two years in a juvenile detention center, and the family must wait until a court date on Oct. 27 to learn what, exactly, the girls claim Keith did to them. But a clue emerged the night before when one of the girls’ parents phoned the Baileys.
“Her mother gave us a call and said she just found out that Keith had been inappropriately touching her daughter and she just wanted to let us know. She said, ‘I know Keith is a good kid, maybe he just went down the wrong path.’ She obviously believed her daughter. But she said it happened at the football game last week. The problem with that is, my wife was at the football game the whole time. My son was there with his girlfriend and my wife didn’t want him unattended, so she had eyes on him the whole time. My wife tells this girl’s mother, ‘that’s funny, I was there watching the whole time, he didn’t leave my sight and he was no where near your daughter,'” Dennis recalls. “He was hanging out with his girlfriend, he wasn’t running around molesting other girls.” The mother then changed the story, saying it must have been a different football game.
The Baileys have met with a lawyer and started a legal defense fund for their son. After Keith’s five day school suspension is up, the school has the option to extend it another five days, or to expel Keith entirely. But after the humiliation Keith suffered, his parents are already looking to enroll him in a new school. The other students, they say, already assume he is guilty after watching him put in the back of a police car.
“It blew my mind. my son is not even mature enough to have done anything like that maliciously. I don’t think it’s in his realm of mental capacity at this point in his life. That they are demonizing him as some sort of malicious predator blows my mind. I don’t even think his mind is capable of being predatory,” Dennis says.
The Crucible-like scenario has the Bailey’s reeling. “We are all on edge. I’m furious personally. I’m furious at these kids, and at their parents for allowing them to do something like this. I’m furious at the school for not even seeming like they are giving him a chance to defend himself, and the way they tried to intimidate him. It seems really shady how they wouldn’t call us until two hours after they started interrogating him,” Dennis says.
He sees the whole terrifying situation as trickling down from the way all the adults on television appear to be treating each other these days. “What 13 year old girl doesn’t love drama? I imagine that’s all they see it as. Let’s stir up some drama. What they don’t realize is now he is facing criminal charges. I hope these girls did this without truly understanding the repercussions of their actions. I think the #metoo thing has gotten played out so much, that they see it as a way to get what they want. It’s a quick way to demonize somebody. I hope they didn’t foresee what the actual ramifications would be.”
To donate to Keith Bailey’s legal defense fund, click here.
Chadwick Moore is a journalist, political commentator, and editor-in-chief of DANGEROUS, currently working on his first book. He tweets at @Chadwick_Moore.