The now all-too-common scenario of the teen who commits suicide after being bullied both in school and on the Internet is leading grieving parents to start seeking more legal recourse against their respective school districts. Fox News reports that the families of two students who committed suicide after bullying are suing the Ohio school district their children attended, in the hopes of preventing another child’s death.
Sladjana Vidovic, Eric Mohat, Meredith Rezak, and Jennifer Eyring all attended school in Mentor, Ohio. Within the last two years, all four committed suicide after relentless bullying. Fox News reports that Sladjana and Eric’s families have now sued the district, in order to get access to school records of the bullying and also because they say the school knew about the teens’ respective situations and did nothing.
Legal challenges to school systems over bullying involving suicides are very tricky to win for a variety of reasons. In the Mohats’ case, Fox News reports that the Ohio Supreme Court has held the case while it figures out how to hear it within the bounds of state law.
That’s a common problem that parents of bullied children face. The legal system simply hasn’t caught up with the issue yet, leaving parents little legal recourse to hold someone accountable for their child’s death. Hope Witsell’s mother Donna, who went after the school’s records on her daughter’s bullying after her death, has only been successful in getting her school district to look at revising their parent notification rules, according to the Tampa Tribune. Proving that any one child was guilty of her daughter’s death, or that the school was liable for not working hard enough to notify her that her daughter was believed to be suicidal, proved impossible — under the school board’s parent notification rules, they didn’t have to tell her. So while she could sue in civil court and possibly win monetary damages for the school’s negligence, even that would be hard to accomplish because of the lack of laws regarding that type of situation.
13-year-old Seth Walsh attempted suicide after relentless bullying in his California school, later dying from injuries sustained in the attempt, according to CBS News. Police who investigated Seth’s suicide determined that they couldn’t charge the children who bullied him with any crime, because there simply are no laws that they could currently be charged under. Seth’s parents, then, are unable to win a lawsuit.
The battle the families of Sladjana and Eric have undertaken won’t be easily won. School systems are beholden to the rules written by the individual district and state law. If both of those arenas are lacking in procedures to deal with school bullying, the parents may succeed in making the school system sit up and take notice so that other children are better protected. But, depending on your point of view, they won’t have a successful lawsuit.
Jeannie Nuss, “Families Sue Ohio School After Four Bullied Teens Die by Their Own Hand.” FoxNews.com
Sherri Ackerman, “Schools Discuss Parent Notification Rules.” TampaTribuneOnline.com
Edecio Martinez, “Seth Walsh: Gay 13-year Old Hangs Self After Reported Bullying.” CBSNews.com