Horrible news out of Ohio, and yet another tragic example of why clearly defined bullying policies are absolutely necessary to protect children from violence. Eric Mohat, 17, was tormented so much that his parents believe it drove him to kill himself.
"...when one bully said publicly in class "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself, no one will miss you," he did.
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."
For the rest of the heartbreaking article, please click here.
Ohio is all-too-similar to North Carolina in that it has no statewide anti-bullying policy with enumerated categories. Our friends at Equality Ohio have this to say about their state policy and the similar struggle they've had with getting this legislation passed:
Ohio does not have a broad law to prevent school bullying. Ohio also does not have a law preventing discrimination in education based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In 2006 the Ohio Legislature passed House Bill 276 that required the 723 school districts across Ohio to develop anti-bullying policies on their own. This bill was signed into law without the need for enumerated categories of protection. Equality Ohio and a coalition of organizations testified before the Ohio Senate Committee on Education to try to include these important protections.
Eric committed suicide in 2007. Just three months after his death, his high school adopted an anti-bullying policy with enumerated categories (including sexual orientation), which we found in their Parent/Teacher Handbook. If Ohio, or Eric's school district, had taken precautionary steps to protect him and millions of other students from this sort of targeted bullying, it is possible Eric might still be alive.
Shouldn't North Carolina adopt this kind of effective policy before another student kills himself or snaps and shoots classmates?
While our coalition is working very hard on getting this legislation passed, there are things you can do in the meantime - as parents, friends, educators, or administrators - to learn more about how to effectively help victims of bullying at SafeYouth.org.
Our hearts go out to the Mohat family, and all victims of bullying, and we commend the Mohat family for using this tragedy to draw attention to this serious problem in our schools and to create more effective legislation regarding school anti-bullying policies.
We urge you to contact your legislators to make sure that they support the School Violence Prevention Act (House Bill #548 / Senate Bill #526). You can look up your legislators and email them here.