A Memphis family is heartbroken after their 12-year-old son took his own life following a period of bullying. Now, grieving mother Cheryl Hudson has chosen to share a photo of her son’s open casket in order to raise awareness of bullying and the horrific consequences it can have on young people.
Andrew Leach was being bullied at Southaven Middle School, according to his parents.
“He was a very loving young boy. He had a contagious smile,” Hudson said, as reported by News Channel 3 Memphis. “He was outdoorsy. He loved to go camping. If you were down, he’d try to help you up.”
But Leach’s mother admits that she had no idea he was struggling emotionally. “I guess I was just oblivious to it. He just always seemed happy,” she said. Behind closed doors, however, Andrew was questioning himself.
“He was struggling a lot internally with sexual orientation,” said Matt, Andrew’s father. “He finally came out with the information at school that he thought he may be bisexual. I think that really amped up the bullying.”
Then, the unthinkable happened. Andrew returned home from school on March 6, went into the garage and killed himself.
“We found notes that told us of his plan,” Leach said. Since his death, the parents have learned the full extent of the horrific bullying.
“Kids were telling him, ‘We’re gonna put hands on you. You’re not going to make it out of this bathroom.’ Things of that nature,” his father said.
“I want them to know what they’ve done and how it affects other people,” Hudson said.
Now, the parents are hoping to raise awareness of bullying and ensure that no parent has to go through the same thing they have experienced.
“If you think there’s any chance of your child suffering from depression, their grades are drastically changing, their eating habits or sleeping habits changed, then get in their business. Talk to them,” Leach said.
In a statement, DeSoto County Schools did not specify whether the district was aware of Leach’s bullying but instead chose to encourage students to contact them with details of any bad behavior towards others.
“All bullying reports are treated with the utmost importance. Students and parents are encouraged to contact school officials anytime there are bullying concerns, and they can use a link on the DeSoto County Schools website if they would prefer to report bullying incidents anonymously. All claims are investigated thoroughly, and school counselors are trained to help students and intervene when they are aware of a situation,” the district wrote.
“Our hearts go out to this young student’s friends and family.”
Messages of support have been pouring in for the family. “I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son..many prayers for you all in the days to come..I just hate when children get bullied and nothing is done about it,” one person commented. “I am so very sorry for your loss. This should not have happened. His precious soul,” another added.