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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  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.

Pathfinder June 22, 2011 at 12:41 PM
Wow. It's verdicts like this that actually restore my faith in the justice system. As few and far between as they might be, it makes me actually think there are some lawyers/judges with common sense out there. Thank you Judge Nugent. If I could vote for you, I would. While this child's suicide (and others at MHS) was tragic and potentially avoidable, the Judge basically said the truth: the school is filled with educators and education administrators. They are not social service workers. They are not police officers (though some do roam the halls). They are not your child's parents. Nor should they be any of those things. Ultimately, you as parents need to try your best to equip your children with the life skills necessary to deal with adversity in life. There are bullies everywhere. Just because a coworker or competitor doesn't throw your books down the stairs or give you a swirly at the office, doesn't mean he can't be any less hurtful and scaring to you at age 35. Sheltering your children is a short term answer but not a long term solution.
KF June 23, 2011 at 12:40 AM
How can you compare the coping skills of a 35 year old adult and a 17 year old child? Eric did go to teachers, Eric even went to the principal directly and let him know what was going on. In the class where poor Eric was tormented the most, the teacher was fully aware of what was going on. Individual students even stepped in and tried to help Eric. As I see it these so called educators should all feel personally responsible for everything that was done to Eric. When a student excels, don't we compliment the teachers for their part in the student's education? How can these adults who were fully aware of the situation not take any of the blame? Shame on each and every one of you.
Pathfinder June 23, 2011 at 12:58 PM
I wasn't comparing a 17 year to a 35 year old. My point was that type of behavior doesn't stop just because you graduate from high school, and that teaching children how to deal with it is the answer, not figuring out how to shelter your child from it. For better or worse, just like teaching mathematics, some kids will learn to cope with social issues better than others. Yes, when a student excels, we can compliment the teachers because they've done well at their job....their job which is teaching (though I would argue that most of the compliments go to the student for their hard work). My understanding of this situation is that much of the abuse from others occurred outside of the school. Should the principal and/or teachers be monitoring that as well? If there's physical abuse going on within the school walls, then that obviously needs to be dealt with by the school, but there's a lot more going on here than just that. For those that disagree, I'd like to hear what your expectations of the school staff are. Be very specific. If Little Luke complains about being "bullied" by Little Sammy, do you suggest immediately suspending/expelling Sammy? If Sammy slugs Luke in the halls and someone witnesses it, then that's what happens, but now were talking about a different situation, aren't we. And what exactly is "bullying". The way it's being taught to my kids in elementary school, if someone hears Sammy call Luke a jerk face a couple times, he's gonzo.
Jason Lea (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I deleted a comment because it didn't abide by our terms of service. No profanity, people.

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