Student Voices Left Unheard

With the new documentary, "Mentor," incriminating Mentor High students and blackening the name of our school, have the students really had a chance to speak up?

Recently there has been talk of a new documentary called

Although this film may have been made with the good intentions of spreading awareness about the issue of bullying, it has left students upset and frustrated.

Instead of showing both sides of the story, this film focuses on the sensationalism created by only using lawyers and the parents of the bullying victims. It paints the students of Mentor High School as cold and heartless monsters, mercilessly preying on those with differences.

The trailer shows our football team and marching band, two groups very close to our hearts, and makes them look like they are the problem. Footage from a high school football game is skewed and played with a sobering version of our alma mater in the background, blackening one of Mentor High School's most spirited events. 

After seeing this trailer, I went through an array of emotions; sadness for the loss of fellow students, anger towards the director looking to tear apart our school and frustration at the fact that there was very little that we, as students, could do.

People were texting each other, posting on Facebook and tweeting about the injustice that this documentary brought up. Within minutes, any alumni of Mentor High or current student was posting about how proud they were to go to Mentor High School, despite the darkness that this director was looking to cast upon the school.

Just with the response we had to the trailor, it was made obvious that the students of Mentor High School are proud to be Cardinals. One of my fellow seniors at MHS, Ben Yanosko, spoke for many students when he said, "I would not be the person I am today without the great environment and the great people of Mentor, Ohio. One day I will raise my kids here. I love where I am from and no video will ever change that."

As strong as Mentor High can stand and as united as the students can be, our voices are not being heard. In the documentary, only one side is shown.

No information is given on Mentor High School's multiple tolerance and bullying prevention campaigns and some of the school hallway images are not even of MHS!

No opportunity is given to let the students of Mentor High speak for themselves.

As another fellow senior at Mentor High, Regis Coustillac, tweeted that "Jane Goodall did not just walk in the jungle and start saying stuff about chimps. She stayed there and got to know them. No one got to know us."

This feeling is one that many MHS students are experiencing right now, since we never got a chance to say what we believed or if we see a real bullying problem at school.

The issue is that this generation of students is being blamed for actions that happened before our time at MHS. As a senior under fire now, I was a little underclassman when Sladjana Vidovic tragically took her life.

Now I am being told that the people in my school, including me, are terrible people because of something that happened back in the days when I could barely even find my own classroom, let alone bully someone.

Now that Mentor High School has implemented bullying prevention and awarenss programs, I have not witnessed one incident of bullying; and the student to student respect has definitely increased.

The Mentor Schools cannot just be put to blame for the prevalence of bullying, though. Bullying occurs in every school, not just ours, and some of the drastic actions taken as a result of it may be preventable if parents and fellow students were also aware of the signs of depression and how to get someone help if they begin to show them.

Mentor High even has a program for suicide prevention and awareness, called Give a Hand Take a Hand (GAHTAH). The schools cannot be criminalized in the way that they are and the students cannot be shown as the heartless bullies that we are not.

Showing the images of student fans, athletes, and musicians at the Friday night football games is using our faces to try to show us as something we are not.

Mentor High Students show a level of school pride that is unsurpassable, even in the face of adversity. When everyone else is against us, the students of MHS band together and stand up for our alma mater.

Ronald Lucarelli, fellow senior and National Honor Society president said, "I am confident this is only going to make our students more motivated to show the critics how much our students love Mentor High and how many great things are taking place in our wonderful high school."

Once a Cardinal, Always a Cardinal -- and these cards will fight until our voice is heard.

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Jason Lea (Editor) March 29, 2012 at 10:13 AM
Hi, I know both the documentary and its subject is an emotional topic; and, as always, we encourage conversation on the subject. What we don't encourage is just tossing insults at people with opposing opinions. That's not allowed on this story or this site and won't be tolerated. I say this preemptively in hopes that it won't be necessary.
T Me March 29, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Very well said, Sarah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So proud of MHS and all that makes it the wonderful place that it is!!!
Mary Jo Stack March 29, 2012 at 01:00 PM
I am proud that my children attend MHS. Yes, the kids at MHS currently have taken part in rigorous anti-bullying programs. Why blame these kids? There is so much more to the story than these families portray. We have a wonderful group, the majority, of Mentor students who are some of the most caring kids I have ever known. The biggest takeaway is that anything can happen anywhere to anyone. Its not a single community that has this problem. Very well said Sarah.
Jim Davis March 29, 2012 at 01:26 PM
I went to MHS and I agree 100% with the video. MHS is full of problems and i did not see any good with in the walls. My senior year fights were so bad a kid went into a comma for at least a month, after a month no one talked about him, and there was a fight where the ambulance had to come at least twice a week. The bathrooms smell like weed and you see drug deals go on in the halls. If you go to MHS you have to have a thick skin because it is so rough in there. I also agree with the fact that the school administrators do not care or follow there own policies. MHS needs to work on a lot of there problems and make it a safe environment for everyone.
halle March 29, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Good job Sarah! I have been waiting for a "real" response to this video. I hope your piece is being offered to the Plain Dealer and other "news " sources. Though I am sure this piece is not as sensational in the eyes of most news reporters, I hope they give it the exact same attention as the video. As a 1982 graduate "Once a Cardinal, Always a Cardinal" is very true. I am so saddened to see that there seems to be a mission bent on destroying an entire student body. A mission by adults who are worse than adolescent bullies because they are supposedly of a mature mind. There are bad eggs in any situation, any school no matter how big, poor, affluent, city, country, public or private. The fact is that most of the students at Mentor are good kids from ALL walks of life. Sarah, Regis and Ben are a better representation of the student body and the kind of school system we are. I encourage all of my fellow allum to let the school know as well as the public what the reality is. Mentor High, several of the teachers, the opportunities made available there along with my friends made for a great start to my adult life and the successes I now enjoy. We are the "Fighting Cardinals" and will not let outsiders knock us down. You picked the wrong community!
T Me March 29, 2012 at 02:45 PM
The stories from all sides around teen suicide are tragic...and everyone involved deserves our prayers. Everyone at some time has been touched by teen suicide. However, I do feel that the video trailer is not complete in its portrayal of MHS...there are OVERWHELMINGLY many more good people there who DO make a difference. For the majority, it is a wonderfully positive experience...full of unlimited opportunities. There is truly something there for everybody---a friend, a class, an extracurricular, no matter the area of interest or skill. Lasting friendships are formed for a lifetime. However, as is the case everywhere, there is a minority of those to whom the above is a challenge. Bullying has always been present....disturbed teens have always been present. Back in my h.s. days, there were 3 suicides in one year....one was a good friend. For a school with a student population MUCH smaller than Mentor (250-300 per class), that is overwhelming....and that was 25 years ago!!! So I feel it is irrelevant to argue "now vs. then"...or " student population vs. statistics"....for unfortunately, no one is immune to this type of tragedy.
T Me March 29, 2012 at 02:45 PM
So, I think the focus of the story should be...what IS being done...what was learned from that experience. Continue to teach kids the tools with how to deal with bullying... ....to those that are bullied, stand tall, be strong, and seek help....to those that are witnesses, stand tall, be strong, and help...and to those that are bullies, realize that you ARE outnumbered by the tall, the strong, and the helped!! The students at Mentor CARE...the staff at Mentor CARES...and the community of Mentor CARES!!!
Leah Williams March 29, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Jim, when did you go to MHS? I feel like if that's ALL you remember, and you found NO good within it's walls you were just not hanging out with the right people. There are hundreds of student groups to join, and lemme tell you, the Marching Band kids are not tokeing up and beating each other senseless. Be careful what you say about the entire school, because just because your clique had problems does not mean that the other 2000 students had them too. I think that's the main problem with the entire documentary, it only shows a very thing sliver of reality, and ignores anything that does not support it's perspective's bias. I'd like to point tout that I went to Mentor K-12, and never ONCE witnessed a fight. I've seen two guys screaming at each other in the student center, but there are always security guards around to take control. Were there drug deals? Yes, I've even seen a few, but if you don't involve yourself in that foolishness, you come away without any negative effects. That was MY experience, and I'm sure that it does not apply to everybody else in the building, but I do feel that my experience is a good and average representation of reality.
J. P. March 29, 2012 at 04:28 PM
25+ years ago in a small town in Ohio, one of my classmates committed suicide. The local newspaper painted our entire school as uncaring bullies. What was ignored back then was both the home life and the high probablity of mental illness of the student. The villifying of the student body is happening again in Mentor. As a parent of a current and a graduated Mentor High student, I do not believe that the schools or the students should be blamed for these suicides. I know many, many Mentor High students. These kids are bright, talented and caring. Thank you, Sarah, for your article.
Taylor Howell March 29, 2012 at 04:32 PM
This was wonderful. I graduated from mentor last year And I loved it out voices are unheard and I love that you are standing up for over 3,000 people
Matthew Antenucci March 29, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I am proud to be an MHS alum and am grateful to people like Sarah for speaking out. When the bullying issue started popping up in the news i was asked constantly by people if it was that bad when i went there. My response always was and is "i'm sure it's not that bad now, don't believe everything you hear." People are letting a few incidents describe an entire group of students. This is immoral and wrong. We love in a society that likes to make snap judgments before reading the facts and unfortunately i don't think this will change. Thank you Sarah and other students for standing up for MHS!!! Matt- class of 2000
Michael March 29, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Can anyone provide a link to the documentary? Sarah, While your rebuttal is welcomed and necessary, it seems you're being a little disingenuous yourself. I agree that most high school students aren't 'cold heartless monsters', but one does not need to be in order to bully. Every student at Mentor sees both sides of it. To claim that you have not witnessed bullying since the school implemented a campaign is something I just cannot believe. Bullying campaigns are great and reap positive results, but they don't erase the act. What is needed are students who are conscious of bullying and understand the possible ramifications if it is simply brushed under the carpet. It's going to occur regardless. It's about filling the void that is too often left unnoticed after the act. Individuals should not take all of the blame for what has happened over the past several years. Rather, the culture of Mentor High School needs to change. You cannot have an intimate friendship or teacher-student relationship with everyone; it's impossible at a school Mentor's size. My time at Mentor saw me interact with plenty of ignorant, disrespectful people--teachers included. Are all students like that? No, but pretending they don't exist or have undergone reformation is fantasy. Reducing bullying to a few bad apples is too easy. Instead, the passivity of the Mentor High community must end. --Class of 2007
Sean Eppler March 29, 2012 at 07:24 PM
The documentary being called Mentor will just cause it do more harm to the good students of the school then any good. That name alone will be a source of large scale media bullying towards every student, teacher, and faculty member of the school system. This documentary being in production at all just shows what kind of world we live in where someone has to build fame off of slander.
Meghan Morris March 29, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Sarah, thank you. This response is exactly what I'm sure every student at mentor feels. And notice how parents took NO responsibility. I am a member of GAHTAH the suicide prevention program and I would like to say that I have done many presentations helping kids understand the consequences of bullying and the symptoms and all of the kids at our school understand. BULLYING IS NOT A PROBLEM AT MENTOR HIGH. Take it from me, I'm a sophomore and I'm loving my school.
Stacy March 30, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Thank you so much for writing this, Sarah!! As a former student government officer of MHS, I am so happy to see student leaders standing up against this kind of misrepresentation. Bullying is a terrible problem, and solutions need to be found. However, falsely making Mentor High the face of the problem only hurts the innocent people at Mentor High, and it hinders the effort of those who are working hard to remedy the epidemic issue. I was a student at Mentor high when three of the suicides happened, and I cannot begin to express how devastated we were...this documentary just adds more pain to the difficult memory.
Sarah- Class of 2011 March 30, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Sarah, I think you did I great job writing this article and I am glad to see that you are not going to the let the voice of the students of MHS go unheard. People need to realize that you can't beileve everything the media tells you. Until these people have walked in our shoes for 4 years at Mentor I really don't think they should be generalizing all the students here. I realize and acknowlegde that there is always going to be bullying. However, I think that Mentor does the best it can with the amount of students it has in providing students with outlets to express their feelings. There are many groups (such as GAHTAH, PRIDE, and others), counselers, a social worker, teachers, coaches, unit principles, principles, security guards, and police officers to go to to report bullying. I think that it is important to include these facts into the documentary as well. The fact that this producer shows clips of hallways that are not even from Mentor as well as playing our alma mater in a way that favors their purpose, shows that they are not willing to tell the whole truth. I hope people look at all the sides of the story before deciding the Mentor is such a horrible place because this is simply not the case.
Matt M April 02, 2012 at 06:57 PM
One thing I don't understand about all of this is why someone suddenly decided that this documentary needed to be made....several years after the worst of it all. And I certainly don't understand what sort of change the director expected would come of it. Did the director even go to Mentor? I didn't watch the documentary and I refuse to do so because I went to Mentor and know firsthand that there is nothing going on there that is more serious than your typical high school bullying. When you've got that many teenagers in one place for extended periods of time, there's no way to escape it. It happens in schools all over the country. I'd like to see these people (and any other critic) try to administer a school of over 2500 students and do a better job of it.
Becca April 23, 2012 at 02:43 PM
As a former resident and MHS grad, that community and school is a breeding ground for the most vile and animalistic citizens. Absolutely no acceptance for tolerance outside the norm. The problem of bullying in Mentor has been growing for generations and those who do not support continued efforts against it are either naive or a bully. It's going to take generations to fix the sort of damage Mentor has ingrained in itself.
Jennifer Morris May 17, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Hi, this is the production team from the documentary. We are returning to Mentor May 25th to May 29th for more interviews. Anyone that would like to speak on camera regarding this issue please contact me at jrubymorris@yahoo.com. Thanks.


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