Could we see an "Andy's Law" with stricter bullying convictions?
Just last month, a young boy in Southaven, Mississippi hung himself because he was bullied for his sexuality. Andrew Leach, who was only 12-years-old, was discovered in an outdoor garage. After his death, his parents Matt Leach and Cheryl Hudson have discovered notes and drawings in journals that depicted the pain he was living through and the thought of suicide that had been in his mind for months.
His father told WREG Memphis:
He was struggling a lot internally with sexual orientation. He finally came out with the information at school that he thought he may be bisexual. I think that really amped up the bullying.
He also implored that other parents heed his warning:
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.
Results from Andy’s cellphone and laptops are still under investigation, but it is obvious that the young boy was dealing with some major bullying that started about his physical appearance and led to threats from others students who said, “You’re not going to make it out of this bathroom.”
According to the Associated Press, in February, Andy had informed an assistant principal about the harassment and a counselor sat down with him and another student, but apparently nothing was resolved. The DeSoto County School District stated that they treated the issue appropriately:
All bullying reports are treated with the utmost importance. All claims are investigated thoroughly, and school counselors are trained to help students and intervene when they are aware of a situation.
Now, a Tennessee lawmaker has said he will propose “Andy’s Law” in response to the neglect of bullying incidents. Republican Representative Steve Hopkins says that with “Andy’s Law” bullies could face harder convictions, take the “handcuffs off counselors”, and put in place a state lottery to fund bullying prevention and mental health programs.
Currently, Mississippi law considers bullying a misdemeanor, with up to six months of jail time and $500 in fines.