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When Jeremiah Couldn't Take More Bullying, He Took His Life

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At 14, Jeremiah towered over his classmates. His size and his struggle with a learning disability made Jeremiah a target for bullying.

Five years ago, he took his own life.

Since Jeremiah's death, his father, Jeff Lasater, has devoted himself to preventing bullying of special-needs kids.

"Jeremiah was a kid that was 6'6", 320 pounds. He had a tough time growing up sometimes. ... He was kinda left out a lot of ways," Lasater says. "Really enjoyed photography, football. And if he thought a friend was in trouble, he walked 20 miles to find that friend, you know. I'm very proud that he was my son."

Jeremiah had been bullied since middle school. Lasater says he would tell the school what was going on, but nothing really came of it.

"Me and my wife, we talked about pulling him out, and Jeremiah didn't want to do that," Lasater says. "So he went to high school, and within a month ... he decided that was it."

Oct. 20, 2008, Lasater called his son and asked him if he had done his chores.

"He said, 'Yeah, I did. ... I love you, Dad.' And that's the last time I heard from him," Lasater says.

He later shot himself in a bathroom stall at school during lunch.

"That day, his glasses were destroyed, he was de-pantsed, food thrown on him, called a bunch of names," Lasater says. "Just enough that he couldn't take anymore."

He says the grief never goes away.

"The guilt, you'll always have. I was Jeremiah's parent," Lasater says. "I was supposed to be his protector, so I'm the one that's responsible for that action. You know, people say, 'Well, time heals everything.' Not when it comes to this."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Yasmina Guerda.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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