Parents of Boy Who Died by Suicide Say They’re Being Bullied

Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Courtesy Sam Teusch
Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Courtesy Sam Teusch

The father of a 10-year-old boy who died by suicide after relentless bullying by classmates says he and his wife are themselves now being bullied by perfect strangers who say they failed as parents.

Sam Teusch, whose son Sammy took his own life on May 5, told The Daily Beast that he’s still trying to process what happened.

“Right now, I’m fine,” an emotional Teusch said on Friday. “Ten seconds from now, I might not be. It’s just, like, a constant up and down and up and down. I walk past my microwave and I think of Sammy climbing up on the counter to throw in a bowl of soup, and it just knocks me down.”

But while the local community has been extremely supportive and kind in the wake of the fourth grader’s tragic death, Teusch and his wife have been subjected to a very different sort of outreach from random people weighing in from elsewhere.

“I’m getting messages from people—we have no idea who they are—saying, ‘This is your fault, you did this,’” Teusch said. “[Or], ‘You didn’t do enough to protect him.’ It’s horrible. It’s just like at Sammy’s school, where you’ve got 400 good kids and you’ve got six bad kids. In this case, you’re dealing with hundreds of millions of people, and so you’ve got a couple of million bullies. It’s just pure hate.”

Sammy Teusch and his dad, Sam, in New York City

Sammy Teusch and his dad, Sam, in New York City.

Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Courtesy Sam Teusch

Teusch, who moved his family from Pensacola, Florida to small-town Indiana for work, said the people now sending hateful messages “don’t know us, they don’t know we spend every waking second with our children.”

And although Teusch conceded that he remains extremely angry about what happened to his son, he insisted that he does not want “negativity” over it. Instead, he hopes to teach others that “things can be accomplished by being kind.”

“I’m not going to resort to a place where people are like, ‘Look at this guy,’” Teusch continued. “No, that’s not me. I’m always positive. There’s always a good part. The first four days, I’m sitting there, thinking, ‘There is no good part.’ And I hated myself. And that’s when we talked as a family and said, ‘There has to be a good part. And we have to find the good part.’”

Teusch, a construction engineer for a hotel chain based in Indianapolis, said he believes his son “would expect me, out of anybody, to do something positive to make his memory go on, to give him a legacy.”

Sammy was bullied relentlessly by other kids at the Greenfield Intermediate School in Greenfield, Indiana, who teased him about his teeth and glasses, according to Teusch. He was said to have been beaten up regularly on the school bus, and was reportedly cornered in a school bathroom last week. His dad said Friday that Sammy was not protected from his tormentors, but rather, kicked off the bus “more than once.”

“He was attacked, he was assaulted,” Teusch went on. “I don’t think it’s an Indiana problem. I think that it’s a nationwide problem… This isn’t a left or right problem, this is not Black or white, it’s not religion, it’s none of that. This is an issue that concerns every single parent.”

Sammy Teusch at the Statue of Liberty while visiting NYC last year.

Sammy Teusch at the Statue of Liberty while visiting New York City last year.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Courtesy Sam Teusch

To those who ask why the couple didn’t pull Sammy out of school, he said he and his wife “didn’t have any option to send him to private school, we’re not rich.”

He described Sammy as “an amazing little boy,” which was only reinforced by what he heard from the child’s classmates at his viewing on Tuesday.

Other kids told Teusch that his son “uplifted them all the time,” he said, and that the way he would slam-dunk his trash into the garbage can “like Kobe [Bryant] would brighten their day.” Although he was picked on nonstop, Sammy in fact “had more friends than he even realized,” said Teusch.

“He impacted more people than you could ever realize,” he said. “He was just a great young man… He was mischievous and fun and always… his whole thing was, he just wanted to know what everything was, how everything worked, what makes that thing tick?… He was so little, but you would’ve never known that he was old beyond his years. I would definitely say that he’s an old soul.”

The community has been crucial in helping Teusch deal with his unthinkable loss, he said. He has been contacted by firefighters, police officers, and regular folks who say their lives had been touched by Sammy.

“I wouldn’t have gotten through this without that,” Teusch explained. “It was actually the children who walked through my house—I opened the doors to my house for two days, and 2,000 strangers walked through my house to wish their condolences… That’s when I was like, ‘I’ve got to do something positive.’ If I can save three kids, one kid, that’s what I want to do.”

Sammy Teusch in New York City, March 2023. He is wearing a Buzz Lightyear helmet.

Sammy Teusch in New York City, March 2023.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Courtesy Sam Teusch

Teusch said the family will be holding a candlelight vigil for Sammy on Friday night, adding, “He’s worth me fighting for.”

Before hanging up on Friday, Teusch recalled a family trip to New York City last March, which Sammy “absolutely loved.” Sammy and his three siblings chose the destination, and the city became “a special place” for Sammy, who dreamed of returning there one day, according to Teusch.

“I think I made him sick of pizza,” Teusch said. “I went and tried just about every pizza place there was.”

In a statement, the Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation said, “Our staff in Greenfield-Central has worked with the Teusch family quite a bit over the last 18 months. Contact between school personnel and the parents 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 investigations we are cooperating with the Greenfield Police Department in this matter.”

As of Friday afternoon, a GoFundMe set up May 6 by the Teusch family to help defray funeral costs had raised nearly $54,000, exceeding its original $30,000 goal by some 80 percent.

If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

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