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Mid-south mother pleads with parents to talk to their children about bullying

Cheryl Hudson lost her 12-year-old son Andrew Leach in 2018 to suicide. She said her son was bullied to death.

SOUTHAVEN, Miss — Bullying continues to be a problem across the country and the Mid-South.

It's happening in the school hallways and online, and it can have a deadly impact.

According to the National Center for Education and Statistics, 20%, or one out of every five, middle and high school students report being bullied each year.

The CDC said youth who are bullied are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school. Experts said almost all forms of bullying peak in middle school - specifically 6th-grade students reported the highest percentage of bullying 

So as many are heading back to the classroom next week, Cheryl Hudson is pleading with parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of bullying. 

Hudson lost her 12-year-old son Andrew Leach in 2018 to suicide. She said he was her best friend, and he was bullied to death.

As part of her outreach, she wears three ribbons pinned in the right corner of her shirt. They represent losing a child and best friend to suicide and being affected by it.

"He was always laughing, always trying to be the clown. His entire being was just trying to make people laugh. He was very caring. He was just a phenomenal kid," she said. 

Andrew attended Southaven Middle school. His mother said a group of classmates made him fear school. 

"He would go to the restroom and they would tell him things like, 'You can't be in here. We are going to put our hands on you.' Or say things like, 'You aren't going to make it out of here without being hurt'," she said. "He would be like 'I just got to go to the restroom, why can't use the restroom?' Then they would put his head in the urinal."

She said no child should have to fear going to school because of the clothes they wear or the color of their skin.

"It's so important for parents to talk to their kids and explain it is not okay to treat another human being as though they are just a piece of trash. It doesn't take anything to be a kind human being," Hudson said.

Hudson said this lesson could save a life. 

Parents can help keep their children safe by downloading the Safe TN app. State education officials want to make sure parents know this app could help keep their children safe.

The app gives anyone the ability to anonymously report suspicious or concerning activity. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security will review, assess, and then send all submissions to law enforcement, mental health crisis response teams, and/or school administrators for intervention based on the information received.

Here are examples of some of the common behaviors and incidents to report:

• Assault
• Sexual misconduct
• Bragging about an upcoming planned attack
• Violence or planned violence
• Physical injury or harm to self or others
• Threats of violence.

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