“It’s her glasses. It’s her braces. It’s she’s shaped funny, her shoes, her clothes,” said Perkins. Author: Mike McDaniel / Eyewitness News (WWL) Published: 10:56 PM CST November 18, 2021 Updated: 11:09 PM CST November 18, 2021
NEW ORLEANS — Antoinette Perkins wants to be the voice she says her 13-year-old daughter, Tierra James, never had.
“She was very fun, quirky, goofy, and always like to scare people,” said Perkins.
Perkins says her daughter’s quirky and introverted personality made her a target of bullying over the years while at Akili Academy of New Orleans.
“It’s her glasses. It’s her braces. It’s she’s shaped funny, her shoes, her clothes,” said Perkins.
Despite the love and acceptance from her family, Perkins says Tierra always felt something was missing.
“The one thing she wanted more than anything in this world is to have friends,” said Perkins.
Instead of friends, Perkins says her daughter got bullied, consistently, both at school and online. Over the weekend, Perkins says her eighth-grade, middle child of five, took her own life.
“I picked my baby up with a bullet in her head. I picked her up. I tried to save my baby,” said Perkins. “I tried to save her.”
Perkins said the gun was in the house for protection only and never thought her daughter would kill herself.
“I loved her so much. We loved her so much,” said Perkins. “My love was not enough for my own child because her mental state was messed up from what they did to my baby.”
Perkins says school leaders knew her daughter was being bullied but didn’t do enough to protect her. Tierra’s death is now encouraging other students to speak up.
“It needs to stop,” said Lyric Mason, an 8th grader at Akili Academy.
Mason says she’s been bullied as well. She knows Tierra and exactly how she felt.
“My issue didn’t get handled until I didn’t want to come to school anymore and I was planning on committing suicide,” said Mason. “What stopped me was the fact that if I had done it, I didn’t want anyone to find me dead.”
A march Thursday afternoon outside the school brought calls for change so no other student or family feels the pain Perkins says she can’t escape.
“I want my daughter back. I want my baby,” said Perkins. “I want to hold her. I want to tell her it’s ok.”
That’s a message she’s told her daughter before and one she wants others who feel they don’t have a voice, to hear.
The CEO of Crescent City Schools, Kate Mehok, which runs Akili Academy tells Eyewitness News the school is working with counselors and is focused on student safety.
“We are all so sorry for the loss of a child in our community. Any time we lose a child it is tragic. This family has been a big part of our Akili family for many years and we know how much they’re grieving,” said CEO Kate Mehok. “We work hard to create a safe space for our students and continue to do so. We don’t tolerate bullying and never will.”
In her death, Tierra’s family donated her organs to save other lives.