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10-year-old suicide victim’s father: I didn’t realize how frightened my son was

Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, resources or someone to talk to, you can find it at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website or by calling 800-273-8255. People are available to talk 24/7.

(NewsNation) — “He’s up and down.” That’s how Sam Teusch describes how his 13-year-old son, Xander, is coping since he found his brother, 10-year-old Sammy, dead in his bedroom.

“He’ll be good until it’s time to go to bed. When it gets quiet in the house and everything settles down … that’s the roughest time,” he told NewsNation Saturday from his home in Greenfield, Indiana, a small town about 30 miles east of Indianapolis.

Teusch says friends and neighbors have been offering support since Sammy, who was the victim of intense bullying, took his own life.

The nightmare of his son’s death was, says Teusch, preceded by months of complaints to the Greenfield-Central Community School system about the bullies who regularly attacked Sammy.

Teusch says he contacted the staff and teachers more than 20 times, and that teachers would call him saying that Sammy was hiding in a closet or under his desk.

Teusch says he wishes he’d known that the night before Sammy died, the bully was on the phone promising yet another beating the next day.

“It’s sad to me that that was going on and I was laying in the next room,” he said. “I didn’t think about that happening.”

Teusch says he wants changes at the school where, he says, the victims are currently ostracized.

“It scares them to come forward. It scares their friends to stick up for them. They’re scared they’ll get in trouble if they come forward and say something to help them,” he said. “You shouldn’t be in trouble for protecting others.”

In a statement, the Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation said “our staff … has worked with the Teusch family quite a bit over the last 18 months. Contact … was frequent. The parents did report the manner of death as a suicide and we are investigating their claims related to bullying. Beyond our own investigation, we are cooperating with the Greenfield Police Department in this matter.”

Teusch says he got very little cooperation from the school district, and he wasn’t the only frustrated parent.

Justin Henderson, the father of Sammy’s friend Josh, told NewsNation he went to his son’s school Friday morning to submit a “bullying report” over his son’s treatment. The school says Henderson, called the police and he was escorted out of the building.

“It goes to show you,” said Teusch. “It’s just like our children getting in trouble for getting smacked in the face with an iPad,” referring to an attack on Sammy on a school bus.

Greenfield Police Department officials say the investigation is still ongoing, and can’t share much. But it did issue this statement:

“Parents, now is the time to talk to you kids. There shouldn’t be anything in their lives you don’t know about. School, homework, sports, friends, every aspect of their lives.  The more conversations you have about everyday life, the more comfortable they will be talking about the hard stuff.”

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