Parents of bullying victim respond to negativity with action

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. -- Matthew Leach went to Gatlinburg this week to clear his head but couldn't escape the vicious online messages about his son Andy, 12, who killed himself last week. His father said he was bullied for questioning his sexual orientation.

“That’s been a problem, other people speaking out,” Leach said.

Leach has read hateful messages and comments that say things like, “his poor excuse for parents really failed him” and “you only have yourself to blame. Sad.”

What’s more, Leach said bullies threatened his oldest son as well.

“If he has any feelings toward the kids that bullied Andy or if he knows anything about them and he retaliates in any way, they’ll retaliate back,” Leach said. “In this past week I’m seeing this is a problem that looks like it starts at home. Kids are acting like the parents.”

But Leach is answering these bullies with positive action. He planned to attend the “Refuse to be a Victim” anti-bullying program at Southaven Middle Saturday. He’s also working with the organizers on future efforts.

“We’re going to go over what we need to do here to keep that momentum going,” Leach said.

He also has an eye on the state capital, hoping to lobby for stricter laws against bullies.

He said he could feel Andy’s spirit inside him.

“More could’ve been done to make a difference for Andy and we just didn’t know. People didn’t tell us. So this is our way to let Andy’s voice be heard,” he said.

The anti-bullying program will be at Southaven Middle on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.

Family members are also holding a speaker event at Trinity Church at 5 p.m. From there, they will march to Southaven Middle School for a candlelight vigil at 7:30.