Teen Commits Suicide Due to Bullying: Parents Sue School for Son's Death

In February 2008, the school beefed up security after a threat of violence, according to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. One commenter on the newspaper's Web site responded, "Well, in my opinion, Mentor High is entirely too large and too crowded. ...With all those kids crammed in there, there's bound to be some fights."

But school officials said that was an isolated incident. "Generally, there is a very low incidence of violence at the school," said Maynor. "Considering its population, it's a relatively serene place."

Maynor confirmed that there had been "several" student suicides in the "last couple of years," but he said that they had no connection to bullying. He said the school had "come a long way" in combating bullying and addressing "social sensitivities."

School Says No Bully Problem

"We don't believe it's a problem," Maynor told ABCNews.com. "We have a program of anti-bullying education to raise awareness for students about what constitutes bullying and differences among students."

The school uses the Olweus Anti-bullying program, but the Mohats said the program is ineffective for high school students. According to Olweus, which is based at Clemson University in Georgia, the program is designed for elementary and middle school children.

"The basic idea of Olweus is that a lot of kids are acting as bullies because they feel bad about themselves and it raises self-esteem," Mohat said. "But when a 200-pound linebacker hits a 100-pound kid, how can it help? He's already the alpha male in building."

A 2007 review of the Olweus program in the Journal of Adolsecent Health concludes that it "had some mixed positive effects varying by gender, ethnicity/race and grade but no overall effect."

The Mohats allege that school officials urged students not to cooperate with the police investigation. "Nobody would take this seriously," said Myers. "We saw this horrendous bullying and no one could stop it."

The family was "trying to pick up the pieces and move on" when they learned there were other suicides in Eric Mohat's class that year, according to Myers. After the police investigation, the family wanted to "hold school officials accountable."

With the second anniversary of Eric Mohat's death and what would have been his 19th birthday this month, Jan Mohat said, "You could accept it if it were an accident, but the way he went is just not right."

"According to the kids who talked to us, his class was hell on earth," she said. But school officials took the attitude that "they are just being kids, boys are just being boys."

"When he came on and told us about what going on, I said I need to be involved, but he said, 'No, it's under control,' that the teacher had caught them and handled it," said his mother.

But days before the suicide, Eric Mohat told his mother, "I get picked on every day and I've got a whole nine weeks left. I can't do this anymore."

"We never had a chance to help him," she said, choking back tears.

"It shouldn't require legal action to get the school system to pay more attention to bullying than they do to their sports programs," said his father. "How many suicides is enough?"

ABC News' information specialist Melissa Lenderman contributed to this report.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7228335. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7228335. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7228335. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7228335. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7228335. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7228335.
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...