Federal Judge Dismisses Mohats' Law Suit Against Mentor Schools
Mohat family has the option to refile two of their complaints at the state level
U.S. District Court Judge Donald C. Nugent has dismissed the lawsuit Eric Mohat's family filed against Mentor Schools.
Eric was a a 17-year-old Mentor High School student who killed himself March 27, 2007. Eric's parents, Janis and William Mohat, filed a lawsuit against Mentor Schools after his death, saying their son killed himself because he was bullied and the school did not do enough to stop it.
Nugent ruled to dismiss the suit June 1.
In the parents' suit, they accused the school district of five specific counts of wrongdoing. They claimed that Mentor Schools:
- violated Eric's constitutional right "to due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment."
- failed "to properly train its officials and teachers in proper methods of recognizing, responding to and preventing bullying and harassment."
- violated Eric's right to not be discriminated against by "allowing the plaintiffs' minor son to be harassed by other students."
- were negligent under state law.
- and acted with "malicious purpose, bad faith and wanton and reckless conduct."
In the suit, the Mohats asked the judge to grant them "compensatory damages, and against the individual defendants an appropriate amount of punitive damages."
Nugent addressed each count separately in his dismissal.
Pertaining to the first count, he said, "Although parents should be able to expect that their children will be kept reasonably safe when under the school’s supervision, the school had no constitutional duty to take affirmative action to protect Eric from harm imposed by other students through bullying and emotional and physical harassment, nor did it have a constitutional duty to take affirmative action to prevent the ultimate harm he imposed upon himself through his suicide."
As per the second count, Nugent wrote, "The plaintiffs do not identify any constitutional right that the (Mentor School) Board’s alleged actions violated. The complaint asserts that the board failed to train its employees on the proper procedures to handle bullying, but as set forth above, the school’s failure to stop third parties from harming Eric – in this case the bullies, and/or Eric, himself – although tragic and possibly preventable, does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation."
Nugent also said in his decision that the Mohats did not provide any evidence that indicated the board knew their son was being bullied.
The judge dismissed the third count, saying Eric's parents could not bring a complaint under Title IX of federal law.
Finally, counts four and five were dismissed because they are complaints under state law. Nugent said they may, "if appropriate," be refiled at the state level.
"For all of the reasons set forth above, all claims brought on behalf of Eric Mohat’s estate are dismissed as untimely under the appropriate statute of limitations," Nugent wrote in his motion to dismiss.
When contacted for comment, Mentor Schools released a statement that read, "Mentor Public Schools learned (June 1) U.S. District Court Judge Donald C. Nugent granted a motion to dismiss the federal lawsuit filed by the Mohat family against the district and some of its employees. This decision will not end our ongoing commitment to train our staff and students with anti-bullying and mental health education initiatives. Our deepest sympathy remains with the Mohat family grieving the loss of their son."
Kenneth Myers, the Mohats' attorney, did not immediately return a message left at his office Tuesday afternoon.
Mentor Schools still faces a second, similar lawsuit in federal court.
Dragan and Celija Vidovic sued Mentor Schools after their 16-year-old daughter, Sladjana, killed herself in 2008. The Vidovics said the school did not do enough to recognize or stop the bullying that caused Sladjana to kill herself.