California high school senior Landon Jones, 18, said he’s been bullied by his classmates since the fifth grade. But Jones, who is openly gay, said he’s no longer looking the other way.
“I have been called ‘faggot’ countless times at school, and it literally doesn’t bother me at all,” Jones said in a TikTok video he shared Oct. 1 that has gone viral. “The fact that they came to my house does.”
The video, which has 1.3 million views, appears to show two separate instances of Jones’ being subjected to anti-gay bullying. In the more recent incident, which occurred Sept. 29 and was caught on a home surveillance camera, a young man walks up to Jones’ home and starts to knock before Jones’ father opens the door.
“Does Landon live here?” the young man can be heard saying.
His dad responds, “Yes, why?”
“Someone said to come up here,” the young man mumbles before loudly yelling, “because he’s a faggot!” and running off the property.
Jones’ dad said the young man ran off and got in on the passenger side of a black Lincoln Navigator, which drove off.
“I remember being up in my room, hearing it, and I heard what he said. I immediately jumped out of bed and walked outside to see what was happening,” said Jones, who came out as gay in 2020. “I had no sleep that night. I was honestly really upset. I was crying.”
Jones recorded the other incident in his viral TikTok video in August. It shows a group of young men surrounding Jones’ car as he and his sister sit in a Starbucks parking lot. One of the men looks inside Jones’ car and says, “This f------ faggot.”
Jones said he decided to share both incidents on TikTok, where he has nearly 700,000 followers, because “I’m sick of being silent about it,” adding, “So I finally spoke up.”
Jones said the young man who’s visible in the Starbucks video and the person who was driving the black Lincoln Navigator both attend his high school, El Toro High School in Lake Forest, which is part of the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. He said he had heard from others that the young man who came up to his front door attends a nearby high school, although he doesn’t know which one and couldn’t confirm the accuracy of that information.
A spokesperson for the school district said the “unconscionable acts committed against Landon Jones do not reflect the feelings or values of Saddleback Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) and El Toro High School (ETHS).”
“ETHS and SVUSD administration, together with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD), immediately launched a comprehensive investigation to uncover the facts of the incidents,” Wendie Hauschild, the school district’s director of communications and administrative services, said in an email. “We can confirm that the person seen in the surveillance video of the incident that took place at a private home is not a student in SVUSD. Due to the confidentiality that we are required by law to uphold for our students, as well as other minors, SVUSD is unable to share further information regarding the results of the investigation. SVUSD remains steadfast in its commitment to create inclusive, supportive, and safe environments for all students on our campuses.”
Asked about the Sept. 29 incident, an Orange County sheriff’s spokesperson said a school resource officer at El Toro High School was able to speak to “individuals that may or may not have been involved in this incident” or “possibly have knowledge of the incident.” The officer said the person who walked up to the Jones home hasn’t been identified, adding that the “investigation remains ongoing.”
While Jones still attends El Toro High School, he transitioned to virtual schooling at the start of the school year because of “bullying and a rough experience with the school,” he said.
In a joint statement sent by email, Landon Jones’ parents, Lauren and Nathan Jones, said their son has been “called names and made fun of” since elementary school because of his appearance and because his interests never aligned with those of his peers.
“Kids and even adults can be so cruel to people that are different from them,” they said.
After the incident outside their home, Lauren and Nathan Jones said, they are determined to see the people bullying their son face consequences.
“Actions have consequences and we will keep pursuing this until those consequences are paid,” the couple said. “This behavior will not be tolerated and we will never turn a blind eye to injustices like these. We have a family to protect and that is our number one focus right now.”
The Jones family said they reached out to El Toro High School and told administrators that the driver of the Lincoln Navigator was a student at the school. They said no action has yet been taken that they are aware of.
Since Jones shared the video, over 11,000 people have shared comments, most of them supportive.
Former “American Idol” contestant David Archuleta, who came out publicly last year, was among the commenters: “Oh gosh… sorry you’re dealing with that there’s no justification for what they’re doing to you and so shallow of them.”
LGBTQ TikTok personality Josh Helfgott also commented, saying: “If there’s one thing I got from this video, it’s how STRONG you are & how weak they are. I’m so sorry this is happening. Keep shining, Landon.”
Jones said, “One of the last things that I had expected was the amount of support from the community that I would have gotten.”
Lauren and Nathan Jones said they hope their son’s story will give more people voices and show “that no one should ever have to go through this alone.”
Jones isn’t alone when it comes to anti-gay bullying: A report published last year by The Trevor Project, a nonprofit LGBTQ youth crisis intervention and suicide prevention group, found the majority of LGBTQ youths (52%) enrolled in middle or high school reported having been bullied either in person or electronically in the year before they participated in the survey. LGBTQ middle school students reported higher instances of bullying (65%) than those in high school (49%).