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Is School Responsible for Bullycide?

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After one boy was bullied to death, his parents decided to take action.

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Eric Mohat, 17, was harassed so mercilessly in high school that when one bully said publicly in class, "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself, no one will miss you," he did, reports ABC News.

Now his parents, William and Janis Mohat of Mentor, Ohio, have filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying that their son endured name-calling, teasing, constant pushing and shoving and hitting in front of school officials who should have protected him.

The lawsuit -- filed March 27, alleges that the quiet but likable boy, who was involved in theater and music, was called "gay," "fag," "queer" and "homo" and often in front of his teachers. Most of the harassment took place in math class and the teacher -- an athletic coach -- was accused of failing to protect the boy.

"When you lose a child like this it destroys you in ways you can't even describe," Eric Mohat's father told ABCNews.com.

The parents aren't seeking any compensation; rather, they are asking that Mentor High School recognize their son's death as a "bullicide" and put in place what they believe is a badly needed anti-bullying program.

"Bullycide" is all too common. A study by Yale University finds that bully victims are two to nine times more likely to report having suicidal thoughts than other kids. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people in the United States.

Momlogic asked Ross Ellis, founder and chief executive officer of Love Our Children USA, the national nonprofit leader on child violence prevention, for tips on protecting our children from bullies.

Kindness starts at home: "The reality is, any kid can become a bully or be victimized themselves, so it's crucial to take preventative measures now," says Ellis. "Bullying is a learned behavior. So when kids see you criticize others ("Can you believe what Jill was wearing?"), they mimic your actions out in the world. What's more, insecurity usually triggers a bully's behavior. So raising confident and empathetic children will have a two-fold effect: Not only will your kids have positive self-esteem, but they'll be more likely to stand up for other kids who are being harassed."

Develop a buddy system: "It's a fact that bullies rarely strike groups -- they just don't have the guts," says Ellis. "If your child is being harassed, make sure he or she walks around school with a friend, or is within earshot of a teacher." If someone does start bullying your kid, have them look the bully in the eye and say, "I don't like your teasing. Stop it right now." Then they should walk away and report the incident. If the bully pushes, teach your kid not to hit back. "Bullies want a reaction, so if the victim reciprocates, the problem will worsen," says Ross.

Take action: "As tempting as it is to sit down with the troublemaker's parents, don't," says Ellis. "Most parents are defensive toward criticism of their child or are in denial there's even a problem." A better idea: Go to the school directly, and record every incident of harassment. Then ask your school to develop an anti-bullying program and form a watchdog group with other parents. "The sad truth is most prevention lies with parents, because most schools just don't take bullying seriously enough."

Do you think the school should be held accountable for Eric Mohat's suicide?


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12 comments so far | Post a comment now
Bec Thomas April 4, 2009, 10:41 PM

Yes I think they should be held accountable, children are in their care and that makes them responsible for what happens on their watch. My state has an anti-bulling program but I don’t think it really does much good, to many staff members just look the other way or in some cases joion in.

Vita David April 5, 2009, 8:50 AM

I think both children and parents are acccoutable. I have no patience or tolerance with bullying. I know that it goes on everywhere, but if parents would take a closer look at how their children are around other kids, how they talk about them, or what happens in schoolthey can control situations and lead in them in the right directions. So sad and heartbreaking.

Leeza April 5, 2009, 8:56 AM

The breakdown of the american family is what’s responsible for bullies. Most bullies carry many of the same characteristics and backgrounds.They have very low self esteem(they feel less than), so they feel very frustrated and angry.They feel like lashing out at victims that will “take it”.Many bullies actually envy something that the victim has, like good grades,parents that are not divorced like theirs are,etc. Many bullies come from highly dysfunctional families and homes.Parents that are constantly arguing and belittling one another or parents that are never there for emotional support for the bully to go to.The school is not the blame. Families have a responsibility to teach their children to treat others as they would want to be treated.Also, parents need to listen more and pay more attention to their childs emotional needs!

Odile April 5, 2009, 12:57 PM

To sit down with a parent of a bully can be helpfull in at least some cases. I called a parent once and managed to get by the defensiveness with succes. It was a really good experience to be able to talk to the other parent as adults and to talk about what had happened and that maybe talking to her son might help. It did help. She talked to him and didn’t get angry. Maybe a new relationship started between both. It must be encouragement that I didn’t get angry. If I had reacted from my own feelings of pain, defensiveness, anger, I wouldn’t have gotten this result. Calmness and knowing that there is another human being at the other side were necessary for the success of the talk.
Another time, before, I wasn’t as succesful. I was angry. Starting with anger didn’t help.
Yet another time I failed because the mother on the other side didn’t give an opening. She refused to talk. A pitty because I was calm and ready to help her think through how to tackle the situation that binds us.

Bec Thomas April 5, 2009, 9:31 PM

Oh please Leeza bullying has existed since Humans came into being, it has nothig to do with the supposed break down of the American family.

sunshine April 7, 2009, 1:19 PM

I think that parents need to be aware of how there children are acting. Bullying is really not ok and it starts with the parents. If the teacher kept hearing this, he should have said something. Teachers hear alot of this during the day. They should put a stop to it and it should not be tolerated at all!!!

Naomi April 7, 2009, 8:51 PM

I believe the school does have some responsibility; however, the school did not provide the gun. The parents did. He may have found another way to commit suicide but the gun made it easier. Why doesn’t the school counter sue saying that the parents provided the gun?

Olivia April 8, 2009, 4:56 PM

Most bullies, preps, jocks, and even some teachers are among the lowest scum on the face of the planet. And there is no denyig that FACT.
If it weren’t for these people, this boy would be alive, and perfectly well. A good portion of my group of friends(if not all of them) are morally outcasts, treated the same as this boy was. I tell you one thing, if I ever somehow got the chance to meet the man who drove this boy to sicide, I’d deck him so hard across the jaw he’ll have a permanent mark there. So every time he looks in the mirror he knows what he did. People like that make me utterly SICK, and I wouldn’t even SPIT in their direction. This boy looks just like the kids I hang around with and love dearly, and I only wish I’d gotten the chance to meet him. Because when I make a friend like this, he automatically accumilates about twenty more because my freinds and I are like one big family. I can’t wait to meet this boy in heaven and I promise right now I’ll be his best friend.

J April 8, 2009, 7:15 PM

You know what, so many people are quick to blame the bullies. But hey your a parent and your kid has such a low self esteem that he kills himself where were you. As far as bullying goes, if you are getting picked on hit the dude in the face do you think he might stop. It may sounds like a bad idea but the truth is a bully is like a criminal he is looking for an easy steal. He doesnt want to pick on the kid that smacks him in the nose. Shoot if we have to blame somebody lets blame the school system for not allowing people to fight with out fear of getting expelled. Fighting is a natural act and occurs all the time. Stop teaching your kids to ignore bullying, instead teach them to take action and to be confident in themselves and their abilities. (A good punch to the jaw never killed anyone, but failure to act apparently does)

Shenna April 9, 2009, 10:55 PM

If the government wants to do loco parentis, then yes, hold them accountable AS WELL as the parents. As stated before, parents should be watching their kids for the signs and putting a stop to it.

Marketing Promotion May 21, 2009, 12:38 PM

Give please. Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.
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With love ;-), Satin.

Autumn October 13, 2009, 7:27 PM

The kid that was taunting Eric should be charged with Involuntary Manslaughter or Misdemeanor Manslaughter. At the very least.


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