Dad speaks out on bullying after 10-year-old son dies by suicide

Sam Teusch said his son was an "amazing" kid who experienced bullying at school.

Dad speaks out on bullying after 10-year-old son dies by suicide
Sam Teusch
June 13, 2024, 4:47 PM

On a Saturday in May, Sam Teusch said he and his wife and their four children had gone to a family favorite spot in Indianapolis, where they played ping pong and ring toss and other games together.

The next day, May 5, Teusch said they had a normal Sunday morning, with him cooking a homemade breakfast and the kids playing video games together.

When his youngest son, 10-year-old Sammy, wanted pancakes for breakfast, Teusch said he and one of his 13-year-old twin sons drove to a nearby store to pick up an ingredient they needed.

When they came home and called Sammy down for breakfast, Teusch said his and his family's lives changed forever.

Sammy, a fourth-grade student who was nearing the end of the school year, had died by suicide at home, according to Teusch.

"I wish I had said, ‘Come on, get up and go [to the store] with me,'" Teusch told "Good Morning America" of a conversation he wishes he'd had with Sammy, adding, "There was no indication that morning that Sammy was distraught or something really bad was getting ready to happen. It just boom, happened."

Describing the aftermath as a "nightmare," Teusch continued, "I spent four or five days afterwards where I really couldn’t form a sentence. I kept wanting to comfort the kids but I couldn’t comfort the kids because I couldn’t comfort myself."

Through his grief, Teusch said he is choosing to speak out about his son's life, as well as his death, in hopes of preventing a similar tragedy from happening to another family.

As many as 20% of students ages 12 to 18 in the United States experience bullying, according to data shared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And while suicide is rare in children younger than 10, it is the cause of more deaths among kids ages 10 to 24 years than any single medical illness, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"I want to be the last parent crying on television," Teusch said, adding of his beloved son, "We all cherished Sammy. In a lot of ways, he was our leader."

Sammy Teusch is pictured with his parents, Sam and Nicole Teusch, and three siblings.
Sam Teusch

Teusch described Sammy as a good-hearted kid who loved trying different foods and loved being outdoors, going fishing and looking at stars in the night sky.

"He was a spontaneous little kid who didn’t think through every action. He would stand his ground if he believed passionately about something," Teusch said. "As a family unit, if Sammy wanted his voice heard, we’re listening. He’s an amazing, amazing child. It’s just so hard for me right now."

'This can happen to anyone'

When it came to Sammy's mental health, Teusch said he began to notice a change when the family moved in 2022 from Florida to Indiana.

Teusch said he watched his son struggle in a new state and a new school with what he described as bullying.

"It started not long after we got here, I’d say weeks. We always made sure he had the best shoes, had the best clothes ... and he’s kind, so that added to Sammy," Teusch said. "He’s a good-looking kid and this to me shows that stuff can like this can happen to anyone, anyone, no matter looks, clothes, attitude, anything."

Sammy's experience inspired Teusch to speak out about bullying and what can be done to change the ways kids and adults alike treat each other.

An online petition supported by Teusch and calling on Congress to introduce anti-bullying legislation has received over 25,000 signatures.

On June 1, less than a month after Sammy's death, The Uvalde Foundation for Kids -- a nonprofit organization formed after the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas -- announced it would rename its national bullying prevention program in Sammy's honor.

Teusch said he wants parents, caregivers and kids alike to be aware of how bullying can deeply hurt kids, as he says he saw with Sammy.

"I hope that they understand that they don't know what kids are going through at home, they don't know what kids are going through anywhere in life," he said. "And a lot of times kids do not understand that their words can be as hurtful as they are, that their actions are what they are."

Sammy Teusch is pictured with his mom, Nicole, and siblings.
Sam Teusch

Bullying, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is defined as, "any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths, who are not siblings or current dating partners, that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance, and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated."

The act is one that impacts youth of all ages, races and backgrounds -- whether they are bullied, bullies, or witnesses to bullying -- and the effects of it can last into adulthood, according to both the CDC and HHS.

In recent years, other parents who lost children to suicide have also spoken out about bullying, including parents in New Jersey who started an anti-bullying nonprofit organization, Mallory's Army Foundation, after reaching a $9.1 million settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the local school district following the death of their 12-year-old daughter.

"Putting an end to bullying is not something achieved by individuals operating alone, it is done by a community banding together," the foundation states on its website. "We achieve this by unifying students, teachers, kids, and adults alike, against bullying and anyone who seeks to make less of, or cause harm to others."

Advocating for change

Teusch said he too hopes to see changes from all sides of the community. He said he, as a parent, wishes he had asked more questions when Sammy expressed angst about going to school, and he wishes Sammy had more resources to turn to at school.

"I think he was angry mostly that he didn’t know what to do, didn’t know where to turn," Teusch said. "I do feel at fault because I didn’t do more, but as parents we’re supposed to be able to entrust people that when your child is at school, they’re taking care of our kid."

Sammy Teusch died on May 5, 2024, at the age of 10.
Sam Teusch

Greenfield Chief of Police Brian Hartman confirmed in a statement on May 31 that Sammy died by suicide, and that an investigation into his death had been completed and no charges would be filed.

"Through our investigation it is believed there was some bullying taking place in this child’s life. Through our investigation the child did encounter some bullying at school, school records show these incidents were addressed," Hartman's statement read. "It was also found that bullying was taking place outside the school and sometimes in a place where the child should have felt safest."

"Bullying is an issue in our society, whether you are a child or an adult. No one is allowed to be different or have a different opinion anymore without someone somewhere being disrespectful and saying hurtful things," the statement continued, in part. "We as a community need to understand we have a problem, no matter the reason for this tragic and untimely death. We have children who feel their lives are so bad that it is not worth living. We need to come together and give these children a life worth living."

The Greenfield-Central School Corporation, the public school district that Sammy attended in Greenfield, Indiana, did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

The district issued a statement on its website after the findings of the police investigation were released, saying, in part, "We have reviewed GPD’s statement, whose findings are consistent with the information gleaned from Greenfield-Central’s internal investigation.

"Aside from directory information, student records are protected by the Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act (FERPA). Therefore, we cannot address many of the specific items related to this matter," the statement continued. "Greenfield-Central takes all bullying concerns very seriously. We have provided and will continue to provide a safe environment for students in our schools."

Teusch said he and his family have vowed to make sure Sammy's name and legacy live on to help other people.

"My situation will never be fixed. Sammy is gone. He's not going to be here tonight when I go to sleep. He's not going to be here when I wake up in the morning," Teusch said. "But how many people can we reach to fix their problem and to help them become productive members of society."

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal, substance use or other mental health crises please call or text 988. You will reach a trained crisis counselor for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also go to