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September 24, 2010

Second lawsuit says bullies pushed students to suicide

Mentor--A second lawsuit was filed in August against the Mentor school district, alleging that bullying in the schools led to a teenager’s suicide.

The new case involves Sladjana Vidovic, a 16-year-old girl originally from Croatia, who killed herself in 2008, less than a year after the district adopted an anti-bullying program used in schools around the globe.

Vidovic’s suicide note outlined months of torment, including being pushed down the stairs by another student and seeking refuge by eating her lunch in the restroom.

She was the fifth student to kill herself in the district in just over three years when she ended her life in October, 2008.

Last year, the parents of Eric Mohat also sued the district. The 17-year old shot himself after enduring anti-gay bullying, although he identified as heterosexual.

Less than a week after Mohat told his mother that his math teacher had taken care of the bullies and things would be fine, another student told him, “Why don’t you go home and shoot yourself? No one would miss you.”

Mohat did just that, ending his life with his father’s legally registered handgun.

Three other students at the school killed themselves from 2005-2008, but their parents are not part of the lawsuit, and in at least two of the cases, those close to the teens believe other factors in addition to bullying were at work.

Jennifer Eyring’s parents told the Cleveland daily Plain Dealer that, while they don’t blame the school district for her death per se, they believe the bullying their daughter suffered contributed to it.

Jennifer had a learning disability and was just different, refusing to give in to peer pressure, said her mother. She died from an overdose of anti-depressants; the death may have been accidental. At the time of her death, though, her mother had been planning on withdrawing her from Mentor High School to home-teach her for her junior and senior years.

While the anti-bullying program that the Mentor schools adopted was in place before Sladjana’s death, it was only adopted a year earlier, and officials say it takes time for changes to be seen. Critics, however, say that the policy, which was created in Norway, was aimed at elementary and middle-school students, and is ineffective when introduced to high school students.

Last May, the school board adopted a policy that any acts designed to inflict physical or mental pain and committed more than once are unacceptable, including physical attacks and verbal taunting. |


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