4:51am

Fri January 31, 2014
StoryCorps

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

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 7:09 am

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/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Each Friday we get a glimpse into the lives of everyday people through StoryCorps. Jeff Lasater sat down for an interview with his friend, Drew Cartwright in Thousand Oaks, California. Jeff wanted to talk about his teenage son, Jeremiah, who took his own life five years ago. At 14 years old, Jeremiah towered over his classmates and he struggled with a learning disability.

Despite his size, Jeremiah was a gentle giant and was an easy target for bullying.

DREW CARTWRIGHT: Can you tell me a little bit about Jeremiah?

JEFF LASATER: Jeremiah was a kid that was 6'6" - 320 pounds. He had a tough time growing up sometimes. I mean being awkward the way he was and he was kind of left out a lot of ways. 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.

CARTWRIGHT: He was a special needs young man and he was being tormented by...

LASATER: Severely. He was actually being bullied since middle school. And I constantly went to the school, telling them what's going on and really nothing was done. Me and my wife, we talked about pulling him out, and Jeremiah didn't want to do that. So he went to high school, and within a month in high school, he decided that was it.

October 20, I called him on the phone, asked him if he did his chores. He said, Yeah, I did. Said, I love you, Dad. And that's the last time I heard from him. Two sheriffs showed up on my doorstep and pretty much informed me that Jeremiah killed himself with a gun in the bathroom.

CARTWRIGHT: He took his life during the lunch hour, if I recall.

LASATER: Correct. That day, his glasses were destroyed, he was de-pantsed, food thrown on him, called a bunch of names. Just enough that he couldn't take anymore. You know, I went into that bathroom where he committed suicide and what really shocked me was this is the last thing that my son saw was a crapper. He must have been really distraught.

The grief never goes away. The guilt you'll always have. I was Jeremiah's parent. 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.

GREENE: That was Jeff Lasater speaking with his friend Drew Cartwright, remembering Jeff's son Jeremiah, who took his own life after being bullied in school. Since Jeremiah's death, Jeff has devoted himself to preventing the bullying of special needs kids. This conversation, like all StoryCorps recordings, is archived at the Library of Congress.

And you can hear more about Jeff and Jeremiah on the StoryCorps podcast. You can find it at NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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