Bullied Boy Saved from Hurricane Raging Inside

Bullied Boy Saved from Hurricane Raging Inside

Bullying has become epidemic in this country.

Two out of 10 schoolkids say they've been attacked physically. Three out of 10 say the bullying was more taunting or teasing.

Steve Hartman heard from not only from a bullying victim but from the boy who bullied him.

ATLANTA - Like the outside of the private school he attended, Zachary Jamison had an impressive facade. Always smiling in every picture he took even though, for most of junior high, what Jamison really felt was tortured by just about all the kids in his class at the America Heritage Academy outside Atlanta.

Jacob Cordero was one of them.

"Very sad because I had been part of the making fun of him and leaving him out," Cordero said.

(Scroll down to watch a video of this report)

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Cordero said the kids began picking on Jamison after he got juvenile arthritis. He said they started by mocking his limp and it snowballed from there.

"People would like take his lunch, take sweatshirts," said Cordero. "He was just kind of quiet. He never really seemed too sad about it."

Jamison's parents said that at first they were also dismissive of the jokes and slurs.

"I would say, 'Well, maybe they're trying to be funny,'" Darice Jamison said.

"I don't think either one of us fully appreciated the hurricane that was going on inside of him," Scott Jamison said.

"When I was in school, kids called me chicken legs and other funny names because of the way I walked," Jamison said during a speech at an arthritis fundraiser.

Even after Jamison gave the speech, his parents said they still would have never guessed their 11-year-old son was in so much physical and emotional pain that he would actually consider killing himself. But he did consider it and, eventually, even told them so.

"I felt the blood drain out of my face," Scott Jamison said.

Bullying that ends in suicide has become an all-too-familiar theme on the news, and although there are certainly lessons to be learned in those terrible endings, the more important lessons may lie in stories like this one, where the ending is far from tragic.

Today, Jamison is 13, alive and happy thanks to a lot of good people who made some very smart decisions. First, his parents sought counseling for him, but they also encouraged him to get involved with a youth group at church to meet kids outside of school such as Paul and Caleb.

"At that time, that's all I needed was to be accepted," said Jamison. "I'm really glad I met them."

Of course, he was still black-balled at school, but Jamison said those new friendships gave him the courage to face that challenge anew. So when someone suggested he become the manager of the cross country team, he went for it.

"It helped," said Jamison. "It really did because I connected with a lot of friends."

"That's when he really felt wanted," Cordero said.

And whose idea was that?

"Mine," Cordero said.

Thanks to school administrators who forced the issue, Cordero and Jamison had a long heart-to-heart in the principal's office.

"How he felt, how it had crushed him and he wasn't able to do anything," Cordero said.

"He is extremely different this year," Jamison said.

At every school, there will always be the popular kids and there will always be outsiders, but as Jamison and Cordero prove, there will also always be common ground for those brave enough to walk it.

  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.