A 12-year-old boy killed himself after he was bullied over coming out as bisexual, his father said.
Andrew Leach, a sixth-grader at Southaven Middle School in Mississippi, hanged himself in the family’s garage on March 6 after he was tormented by classmates for talking about his sexual orientation, according to his father, Matt Leach.
“He was struggling a lot internally with sexual orientation,” Matt Leach told WREG. “He finally came out with the information at school that he thought he may be bisexual. I think that really amped up the bullying.”
Andrew’s mother, Cheryl Hudson, said her son was a loving kid with a “contagious smile” who liked to go camping and spend time outdoors.
“If you were down, he’d try to help you up,” Hudson said.
But Hudson acknowledged that she missed the pain her son apparently had been experiencing at school.
“I guess I was just oblivious to it,” Hudson said. “He just always seemed happy.”
Hudson said Andrew left a note for his family before taking his own life. His 16-year-old brother later found his body.
Leach said the bullying took a turn for the worse when classmates started threatening to harm Andrew, telling him he wouldn’t “make it out” of a school bathroom where he was being intimidated.
“I want them to know what they’ve done and how it affects other people,” he said.
Leach warned other parents to look for any changes in their children’s school work, eating habits or sleep patterns.
“Then get in their business,” he said. “Talk to them.”
Hudson and Leach questioned whether the school district’s zero-tolerance policy for bullying was being enforced. School officials, meanwhile, said all bullying allegations are treated with “utmost importance,” but did not indicate in a statement to WREG whether the alleged bullying against Andrew was reported.
“All claims are investigated thoroughly, and school counselors are trained to help students and intervene when they are aware of a situation,” district officials told the station. “Our hearts go out to this young student’s friends and family.”
A GoFundMe campaign set up in Andrew’s memory had raised more than $10,000 as of Tuesday.
“He will be missed deeply by all that knew and loved him,” the website reads. “No words could come close to expressing what this family is enduring … If you can’t contribute monetarily, I ask that you pray for his mom, dad, brothers, family & friends. I ask that you kiss your kids and hug them a bit tighter. We never know when God may need them back.”