9-year-old McKenzie Adams tragically took her own life earlier this month.
Her parents believe months of bullying at school pushed the fourth-grader over the edge.
“Something happened that day from one of these bullies that pushed my niece over to the edge,” Adams aunt, Eddwina Harris, 33, tells PEOPLE. “It’s an emotional roller coaster. We’re heartbroken.”
Harris says that Adams, who attended U.S. Jones Elementary School in Demopolis, returned home that day and did her homework like always. Adams then excused herself to go to the bathroom, and her grandmother noticed that the little girl had been gone longer than usual.
“She went to the bathroom and the door was locked. [Her grandmother] said, ‘Unlock the door. What are you doing?’ ” Harris recalls of Adams’ grandmother, whom the little girl lived with. “She ran and got a butter knife and she unlocked the door. She found McKenzie.”
Crying and screaming, Adams’ grandmother called 911. Medical officials arrived and performed CPR on the little girl. Adams died later at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, Harris says.
“The first couple of days [after the death], my sister cried herself to sleep,” Harris says of Adams’ mother. “It was really tough for her. I’m using all my strength to fight for McKenzie. My fight is to get her justice.”
The family says Adams’ death came after months of bullying at the Demopolis school. Harris says that Adams, her mother and grandmother complained several times to school officials who did nothing about the abuse.
Adams’ mother, Jasmine Adams, told CBS News that she feels the school system let her daughter down.
“She told me that this one particular child was writing her nasty notes in class,” Jasmine said, adding “that was my angel.”
“It was just things you wouldn’t think a 9-year-old should know. And my baby, to tell me some of the things they had said to her, I was like, ‘Where are they learning this from?’ “
She added: “Part of it could have been because she rode to school with a white family. And a lot of it was race. Some of the student bullies would say to her, ‘Why you riding with white people? You’re black, you’re ugly. You should just die.’ “
Harris says U.S. Jones Elementary was a predominantly white school, and Adams’ bullies were boys and girls both Black and white.
However, the school system has denied that Adams was bullied. Demopolis City School System attorney Alex Braswell tells PEOPLE that the school launched an investigation and determined that “there have been no findings of any reports of bullying by either the student or family.”
The statement reads in part: “In response to the recent tragic the loss of a Demopolis City School System student, The Demopolis City School System does extend its heartfelt wishes and condolences to the family, friends, students and teachers that have been affected. We have concluded our internal investigation to the allegations of bullying which led to this senseless death.”
Our hearts break for McKenzie’s family.