Friday, April 24, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
BY BILL EGBERT
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Tuesday, April 14th 2009, 4:00 AM
A growing number of Bronx parents are joining a lawsuit to force the city to clean up toxic waste found in public schools.
More than a dozen parents and one prominent organization have signed on or expressed interest in joining Bronx mother Naomi Gonzalez, who last month became the lead plaintiff in a notice of intent to sue the city for failing to remove caulk contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from her children’s school.
Gonzalez said she is “furious that [the city Education Department has known about this] and has done nothing.”
Gonzalez’s kids, Emelina, 6, and Devin, 11, attend Public School 178 in the Bronx, where lab tests commissioned by the Daily News found PCB contamination was 111,000 parts-per-million.
Anything with more than 50 ppm of PCBs is considered toxic waste under federal law, and must be removed.
New co-plaintiff Tyrone Jenkins’ 9-year-old son Tyhair attends PS 160 near Co-op City, where The News found PCB levels of 189 ppm — still nearly four times the threshold to require immediate disposal as toxic waste.
Jenkins says he decided to join the lawsuit because the city is breaking the law.
“The city wouldn’t hesitate to hold me to account if I committed a crime,” Jenkins said.
Nos Quedamos, a respected South Bronx community development group, has also signed on as an organizational plaintiff in the lawsuit to be filed by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
The NYLPI will host an informational meeting for parents at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 24, at the United Methodist Church in Co-op City, 2350 Palmer Ave., at Hutchinson River Parkway E. Tests of nine public school buildings by The News last year revealed illegal levels of PCBs at six of them. The highest levels were found at Manhattan’s PS 199, measured at 225,000 ppm.
More than 200 city school buildings built before PCB caulking was banned are suspected of having illegal contamination, but the city has so far resisted calls for testing to determine how many buildings are actually affected.
The Department of Education has not even removed the toxic caulk from the schools where it was found - including the schools Gonzalez's and Jenkins' children attend - despite a federal law requiring it.
The Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed that this leaves the city liable for millions of dollars in compounding fines with every passing week of the DOE's inaction.
The NYLPI lawsuit seeks to force the DOE to test all schools built or renovated before the 1977 ban, when PCB caulking was commonly used in construction, and remove any caulk with PCB levels of 50 ppm or higher, as required by the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Last week, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, whose Manhattan district includes PS 199, introduced a bill in Albany that would require by law what NYLPI's lawsuit seeks to achieve through the courts.
"It's kind of appalling that I need to write such a bill," said Rosenthal.
Last month, EPA scientists briefed its Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee on the issue of PCB-caulking in schools. The latest science shows PCBs to be powerful developmental toxins, affecting growing children at much lower exposures than adults, and the compounds accumulate in the blood.
The DOE maintains that PCB caulk poses no threat to students, and that children consume more of the toxins through the tiny amounts found in normal cafeteria food than they could receive through airborne exposure to the PCBs in caulk. The DOE is now referring requests for comment to the law department.
The city declined to comment on the lawsuit.
MASHPEE - The Mashpee police department has elected not to pursue charges in the case of alleged child abuse by a local bus monitor, police chief Rodney Collins announced this afternoon.
Last week a Mashpee woman, the parent of an 8-year-old autistic child, reported to police that her daughter had been assaulted April 6 on a Cape Cod Collaborative bus on the ride home from school.
After reviewing the bus security tape, however, investigators determined that there are no grounds for criminal charges.
The video tape, played by police this afternoon at a press conference, showed that the monitor punished the child for spitting by forcibly taking a card from the child’s hand and pulling a sweatshirt hood over the child’s head.
“This is all much ado about nothing,” Collins said after showing the tape. “There was no slapping. There was no punching. There was no level of force used that was being described in the initial allegations.”
The child has a recorded habit of spitting and the mother had previously agreed to this form of punishment in the child’s behavior plan, Collins said.
But the mother disagrees, saying that she never agreed to any plan that allowed the bus monitor to make contact with her child.
“That is 100 percent false,” the mother said today of the reports that she had agreed to the punishment. “(The monitor) was supposed to ignore her for one week. Never in a million years would I say it’s OK for them to touch my child.”
The child has returned to school and continues to take the bus with a different bus driver, her mother said.
By Molly Henneberg
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
For the past three years, 8-year-old Nico Thomas has attended and enjoyed private school through the voucher program in Washington.
"I like it a lot, and I get good grades," she told FOX News.
Nico's mother, Latasha Bennett, thought her 4-year-old daughter, Nia, also had qualified for a voucher, until the Bennetts and 199 other families got letters last week saying "no scholarships will be awarded to new students this year."
Bennett said she was disgusted.
"Education is our children's future," she told FOX News. "Without the proper education, there's nothing."
The D.C. program gives about 1,700 low-income children scholarships worth up to $7,500, paid for with federal taxpayer dollars each year to cover costs of attending private schools -- rather than the long-troubled D.C. public schools. The five-year pilot program was set to expire this year until Congress extended the program for only one more school year.
As a result, Education Secretary Arne Duncan decided not to offer vouchers for new students.
"To put them in for a year and then put them out didn't make sense," he said.
The issue of vouchers has exposed a deep fissure between Republicans, who support them, and Democrats, who oppose them.
Republicans insist that parents deserve a choice if their kids are in failing schools, saying vouchers create competition that puts pressure on public schools to do better.
Democrats, teachers' unions and other opponents say it is impossible to expect public schools to do better while precious public dollars are being siphoned away to private schools.
But the voucher program in Washington has been an exception in the debate over vouchers. Because of the sorry state of public schools in the nation's capitol, some Democrats were willing to allow it in 2003 when a Republican-led Congress created the voucher program.
It is the only federal voucher program in the country. Other cities and states have similar programs -- vouchers are available in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Florida, Utah, Arizona and Georgia -- but they are paid for with local tax dollars.
Supporters of vouchers have said teachers unions are putting pressure on Congress and the Obama administration to kill the voucher program in Washington. But Duncan insists that had nothing to do with it.
"No, that's a non-issue," he said. "The issue for me is I'm really concerned about the 1,700 students. We want to try and make sure they can stay in schools they want to be in."
Meanwhile, voucher program students, such as sophomore Ronald Holassie, wonder if they'll be able to stay in their schools or return to the D.C. public schools.
"It hits me in the hardest year -- senior year. It's going to hit me that I have to go back. All that I worked for in my high school years, I would lose."
Two other students who would lose are Sarah and James Parker. They go to Sidwell Friends, the same private school Sasha and Malia Obama attend. They'll have to go back to public school at the end of next year unless Congress and the D.C. City Council approve extending the voucher program.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
MURRAY, Ky. (AP) - A student teacher in western Kentucky has pleaded not guilty to a sex abuse charge involving a Calloway County High School student.
The Murray Ledger & Times reports that 24-year-old John "Drew" Millwood entered the plea Monday in Circuit Court.
The Calloway County Sheriff's Department says Millwood attends Murray State University and was working as a student teacher. The Sheriff's Department says Millwood met a female student under the age of 18 after school and drove her to a location in the county where they had sexual intercourse.
The age of consent in Kentucky is 16, but it is illegal for a person in a position of authority to have sexual contact with a minor.
Information from: Murray Ledger & Times, http://www.murrayledger.com
AMANDA LEE MYERS
The Associated Press
CHANDLER, Ariz. - An 18-year-old high school student caught with his 48-year-old math teacher in her bedroom was stabbed to death by her boyfriend, who was himself a former student of hers, police said Tuesday.
Chandler police said 20-year-old Sixto Balbuena told them he never meant to kill Samuel Valdivia. He allegedly told police "the blade went in like going into butter" and that he just wanted to show Valdivia how much he hurt him by sleeping with Tamara Hofmann.
Balbuena, a Navy sailor on leave from California, was arrested on a charge of second-degree murder after police found him covered in blood and told them about the killing. He remained jailed in lieu of $100,000 bond on Tuesday and did not yet have a lawyer.
Balbuena found his girlfriend naked and Valdivia in his boxer shorts in the woman's bedroom around 2:40 a.m. Friday, according to police reports and court documents.
Balbuena told police that Valdivia apologized to him before Balbuena began kicking, punching and throwing things at him, according to a police probable cause statement.
Police said Balbuena told them he "wanted to teach the victim a lesson," and stabbed him in the lower side with a kitchen knife, according to the court document. Valdivia later died at a hospital.
He also threw Hofmann to the floor jumped on top of her and demanded to know how long she had been cheating on him, according to the document.
Police said Hofmann taught Valdivia math at El Dorado High School in Chandler and was also Balbuena's teacher when he attended Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe.
A call to both schools was not immediately returned Tuesday. Hofmann's phone number is unlisted.
Balbuena is the one who called 911. He told officers he felt remorse for stabbing Valdivia after seeing him lying on the floor struggling to breathe, police said.
Police spokesman Sgt. Joe Favazzo said Hofmann is being investigated for potential misconduct relative to her involvement with Valdivia.
A 2006 Chandler police report obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday shows that police suspected Hofmann of having a sexual relationship with a then-17-year-old Balbuena.
Both Hofmann and Balbuena denied being in a sexual relationship, and police closed the case.
The Clackamas County sheriffs office said 21-year-old Travis Ferguson was arrested Tuesday following an investigation by a deputy assigned as the school resource officer for Rex Putnam High School.
Ferguson is an assistant coach for Thelo United, a club soccer program in the Portland metro area.
Deputies said a relationship between Ferguson and the girl developed while he coached her in the club soccer program and not the high school, where he assisted last year.
Ferguson was released after he was booked at the Clackamas County Jail and ordered not to have any contact with any persons under the age of 18.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
* Who will finally put a stop to the abuse those children endure seemingly on a daily basis?
DRN has received your memo of
DRN has received your memo of
DRN shares your concern that the investigation/monitoring by
Litigation is just one strategy that DRN may pursue on a case-by-case basis, very much dependent on the particular facts of the situation, the state of the law, and the preferences of the client(s), or parents, when the client is a child. [Note: Notice how the direct question, does DRN intend to pursue other avenues was deliberately not answered. FYI, DRN has the legal authority to file a civil rights lawsuit against this school, yet is apparantly choosing not to. WHY is this? Could it because the Dept of Ed has threatened to take some of DRN's funding if they pursue this, since some of DRN's funding could very well come from the Dept of Ed's IDEA funds?]
Thank you for your concern and the interest in this matter.
Sallie Lynagh, Children’s Team Leader
Sallie Lynagh, Children’s Team Leader
Sunday, April 12, 2009
The complaint alleges Edward A. Winter, a veteran Revere teacher, called the boy numerous homosexual slurs "and other derogatory remarks" when he was the boy's computer teacher at the school in the 2004-2005 school year.
Winter did not return a telephone call seeking comment. He is no longer employed in the Revere public schools.
The complaint also names the city of Revere and the Revere School Committee. Daniel Doherty, the Revere city solicitor who represents the city and school department, did not return a call seeking comment.
The Globe is withholding the name of the boy and his mother, who filed the discrimination complaint, under the newspaper's policy of protecting the names of purported victims of sexual harassment unless given consent.
The complaint was filed in September 2006 with the MCAD, a state panel that investigates allegations against public employees.
An investigator at the MCAD, relying in part on testimony of the boy, issued its finding last month, Davis said.
"It was a pleasant surprise, because so few cases filed with the MCAD end in a probable cause finding," said Davis, who specializes in employment law.
The boy was in the sixth grade when the alleged harassment took place, Davis said. In the complaint, the boy said that because of the teacher's actions, "I felt humiliated in front of my classmates. His conduct affected my confidence, and ultimately, my performance and ability in the classroom."
The decision outlines steps that Revere school officials took to investigate the boy's complaints. It notes that on May 2, 2006, William Carey, who then was principal of Beachmont School, received separate complaints about Winter from two students. Carey started an investigation at the school, the decision states.
On May 9, 2006, Carey sent a memo to the school superintendent, stating that the investigation found "Winter had violated the Revere Public Schools' Anti-Harassment Policy as it related to verbal harassment and verbal sexual harassment," according to the decision.
On June 14, 2006, by agreement of Winter, the Revere public schools, and the Revere Teachers Association, Winter agreed to be placed on administrative leave and submit a letter of resignation with an effective date of Nov. 1, 2006, according to the decision.
The MCAD did not find probable cause on allegations of discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. The allegations do not fall under the jurisdiction of the commission, according to the decision.
The two sides are scheduled to meet on July 20 for a conciliation meeting. Conciliation is a process similar to mediation, wherein the two parties attempt to find a resolution, including monetary compensation, Davis said.
"There are also nonmonetary compensations," he said. "In this case, I think an apology could also go a long way in terms of helping [the boy] heal."
The boy's mother said she is looking forward to resolution. "It's a huge victory for my son. Our whole point was that he was being sexually harassed."
The MCAD complaint is one of two actions the boy's family has filed against Winter. A lawsuit pending in Suffolk Superior Court also alleges sexual discrimination and seeks $4.7 million in damages. On Dec. 18, 2008, a Superior Court judge denied a motion filed by the city of Revere to dismiss the case, according to the clerk's office at Suffolk Superior Court.
Bradley A MacDonald, a Newton lawyer representing Winter in the Superior Court case, said, "Mr. Winter has denied, and will continue to deny, the allegations," MacDonald said he did not represent Winter in the MCAD complaint.
John Laymon, a Boston lawyer representing the boy in Superior Court, believes the MCAD finding could help his case. "It shows there is a valid complaint," Laymon said. "If you believe our allegations, you need to understand that young kids are very sensitive to these kinds of things, more sensitive than adults."
Monday, April 6, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Published: 4/3/2009 5:01 PM
Last Modified: 4/3/2009 5:21 PM
The principal’s secretary at Hawthorne Elementary School resigned following an investigation into the use of corporal punishment at the school.
Erica L. Ivey, who has worked for Tulsa Public Schools since October 2005, told district administrators this week of her intent to resign.
Roger Holder, compliance officer for TPS, said once he receives a formal resignation letter from Ivey, it will be forwarded to the school board for its consideration to accept it or not.
In early March, Superintendent Keith Ballard said three Hawthorne employees were asked to stay home for a week while administrators looked into multiple complaints. A notice about the matter was sent home to students’ parents.
Holder said Friday that the two other employees have since returned to work.
“She (Ivey) was suspended while allegations were being investigated. She hasn’t been back there (at Hawthorne) since the allegations,” Holder said.
The use of corporal punishment is legal in Oklahoma, but prohibited by Tulsa Public Schools’ own policy.
AURORA — A lawsuit was filed against Aurora Public Schools this week, claiming that an elementary- school teacher repeatedly restrained a developmentally disabled student by tying her to a chair.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Denver on behalf of an unnamed girl who attended Lansing Elementary School during the 2006-07 school year.
The suit claims the teacher routinely restrained the 5-year-old girl with an occupational therapy device typically used by people who are unable to sit up on their own or who have little or no body control.
The family's attorney, Jack Robinson, said the girl, who is now 8, did not need to be put in the device.
The girl has epilepsy, a cognitive impairment, developmental delays and is nonverbal, he said.
"They punished her by strapping her to this chair in the corner," Robinson said.
APS would not comment because of the pending litigation but issued a statement saying, "We would like to emphasize, however, that the Legal Center for Persons with Disabilities, after undertaking a thorough review of the matter, was satisfied with the steps we have taken."
The legal center review found that staff at Lansing engaged in a pattern and practice of "improper use of restraint and seclusion." It also said the staff did not have "adequate basis" to restrain the girl.
Among other things, it recommended that the district eliminate the use of occupational therapy devices as mechanical restraints and that special-ed teachers get more trauma and restraint training.
Robinson said the girl's mother routinely talked with the teacher and had no indication she was acting up or needed to be restrained.
He said a teacher's aide became concerned about the restraining, then went to the principal and ultimately to the legal center for a review.
The girl and her family initially transferred to another school in the district but now are living in another part of the state.
"She's doing fine," Robinson said.
Carlos Illescas: 303-954-1175 or email@example.com
Thursday, April 2, 2009
CATEGORY ONE: Cases, Hearings, Criminal and Civil
Please provide the following information to Christine A. Hodakievic, GAO Senior Special Agent, email: HodakievicC@gao.gov We would also appreciate a copy to us at firstname.lastname@example.org but that is not essential.
1. Information about any Court case, due process hearing or other administrative hearing involving restraints, seclusion, or aversives in a day school program. It does not have to be an IDEA case. It can be any kind of case, such as Constitutional, wrongful death or other tort action, 504, or any other kind of case/hearing. It can be a litigated case or a case that was filed and settled or otherwise concluded.
2 Information about any Criminal Matter involving restraint, seclusion, or aversives in a school. This can be a criminal case that went to a trial, a criminal case resolved without a trial, an indictment, an information, arrest, or any other kind of criminal matter. (Some of you have represented children who were witnesses in criminal cases against school staff who used aversive interventions. The GAO would be interested in these criminal cases, as well as others.)
3. Information about complaints filed with a State Department of Education about restraints, seclusion, or aversives in a day school program.
In your email to the GAO, it would be very helpful to describe the case, provide any identifying information such as a citation, describe what happened to the child, what happened in the case/hearing/complaint, and any other pertinent information. If you know whether the case is still pending or whether civil litigation has ended, please add that. The GAO would also appreciate receiving copies of complaints, hearing notices, pleadings, briefs, and decisions/orders, if you would like to provide them (its optional). Obviously, if you have a big case file, choose the most important documents. If you filed a complaint with your State Department of Education, but didn't file a court case or due process, please be very clear about that in your email to the GAO. It helps them sort out what they are getting, since they will be receiving many many emails.
CATEGORY 2: Other Situations--no filed case or hearing.
COPAA is also seeking information about any other situations in which children were subject to restraints, seclusion, or aversives but a case or due process/administrative hearing was not filed. We have set up a computerized survey form for you to report it. We will be sharing this information with the GAO and as otherwise explained in the survey. This computerized form simply allows us to collect all of the information together and sort it so that we can do this quickly. If you wish to complete the survey, click here
(If the link doesn't work, the full link is
IF YOU HAVE A SITUATION IN WHICH A COURT CASE, HEARING, CRIMINAL COMPLAINT, or other litigation, court filing, or case ensued, please report it directly to the GAO as stated in Category 1. Please use the COPAA survey form only for other situations in which restraints, seclusion, or aversives were used.
Thank you and feel free to contact us with any other questions. Again, please feel free to repost or otherwise share this information with others.
Congressional Affairs Co-Chair
Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates, Inc. (COPAA)
A National Voice for Special Education Rights and Advocacy
COPAA Member Announcements is a member service from the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates.
You may unsubscribe at any time by sending an email to STServ@copaa.org with this message in the body of the email:
Family Wants No Money but Insists School Address Bullying and Three Other Suicides
"How many suicides is enough?"
April 2, 2009
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.
The parents aren't seeking any compensation; rather, they are asking that Mentor High School recognize their son's death as a "bullicide" and put in place what they believe is a badly needed anti-bullying program.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, names school administrators Jacqueline A. Hoynes and Joseph Spiccia, as well as math teacher Thomas M. Horvath. None would comment on the allegations.
Parents Say Three Other Students Killed Themselves
The Mohats also claim that bullying was a "significant factor" in the deaths of three other students in Eric Mohat's class in 2007.
Mentor high school officials confirmed that a girl and two other boys in Eric's class had killed themselves in 2007.
According to Janet Klee, a counselor at Chrysalis, a suicide survivors support group, who counseled two of the surviving families, the suicides were connected to bullying.
"These kids," said Klee, "were extremely bright, and [the bullies] thought they were nerds. I say that not in a derogative but in a good sense. These were good kids who were easy targets for bullying."
Dan Hughes, whose son Brandon was a friend of Eric's, said he had withdrawn his son from Mentor High School after he was relentlessly bullied. Brandon, now 19 and working, wrote a suicide note, citing the taunts, two weeks after Eric Mohat's death.
"What it boils down to is the football players, cheerleaders and kids with money have a different set of rules than everybody else," Hughes told ABCNews.com.
"It's not that much out of the ordinary, and the disturbing part is the school is more concerned about sweeping it under the rug than getting to the bottom of what's going on," he said.
The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center estimates that nearly 30 percent of American youth are either a bully or a target of bullying.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which established the resource center after the Columbine shootings in 1999, every day an estimated 160,000 kids nationwide stay home from school because they are afraid of being bullied.
In addition, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine, in a new review of studies from 13 countries, have found signs of an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide.
Almost all found connections between being bullied and suicidal thoughts among children. Five reported that bullying victims were two to nine times more likely to report suicidal thoughts than were other children.
In October, 14-year-old Jeremiah Lasater, who had been taunted and even had food thrown at him during lunch, locked himself in his Acton, Calif., high school bathroom and shot himself in the head.
In 2006, a St. Louis 13-year-old killed herself in a cyberbullying case. After she was taunted over the Internet, Megan Meier hanged herself in the closet of her family's home. Friends later said the suicide was triggered by a message, "The world would be a better place without you."
'Twiggy' Teased With Gay Slurs
Eric Mohat -- whose friends knew him as "Twiggy" for his lean, 6-foot-1-inch, 112-pound physique -- had a dry wit and musical talent, according to his mother, Jan Mohat. He had played piano for 13 years, enjoyed video games, anime, Harry Potter books and "cracking puzzles."
"By all indications he was a very nice, typical high school kid, kind of quiet and shy, but outgoing with his little group of friends," said the family's lawyer Ken Myers. "He seemed to have a quirky sense of humor and was also very sensitive."
The bullying "accumulated over time," Myers told ABCNews.com. "In math class, two or three picked on him constantly and mercilessly. Most of it was verbal, but they did some things like sitting behind him and flicking him in the ear, sticking stuff in his hoodie and putting eraser shavings on his head. Out of class they would shove him in lockers."
Much of the taunting was related to him being considered gay, though Eric Mohat's parents said the teen "didn't identify himself that way," Myers said.
"He may have looked effeminate, was in theater and would wear bright clothes," said Myers. "He was a skinny kid, and so the kids found something that bothered him and went for that."
The parents say Eric Mohat routinely ignored the teasing but complained to the teacher, who responded by moving the bullies' desks.
"The next day, they were back and it made it worse," said Myers. "They may have thought he was a snitch and the parents didn't know how bad it was."
Bullies Showed No Remorse
But March 29, 2007, one bully pushed Eric Mohat too far with a remark about killing himself, the lawsuit alleges. The teen took a legally registered gun from his father's bureau drawer, locked himself in his room and shot himself in the head.
At the time, Eric Mohat's older sister, Erin, was on a treadmill exercising. His after-school employer called their home to find out why he had not shown up at work.
Erin Mohat found her brother's body in his bedroom and called 911. Now 21, his sister is studying to be a school psychologist, something Jan Mohat said is now "a calling."
"My sister is my hero," Eric Mohat had written on his MySpace page, though she was too late to save him.
Later authorities found a story Eric Mohat had begun to write about bullying. Days before, he had told his mother about the nonstop taunts in both class and in the hallways of the high school.
The family said school officials had been resistant to cooperate in the investigation and had insisted bullying was not a problem; the bullies never showed remorse.
"This is the first we heard that a suit was filed," said Justin Maynor, communications director for the Mentor Public School District. "We had a hunch it was coming."
Mentor High School, with 2,900 students, is one of the largest high schools in Ohio. It sits in a predominantly white, upper middle-class community surrounded by malls, 30 miles east of Cleveland.
In February 2008, the school beefed up security after a threat of violence, according to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. One commenter on the newspaper's Web site responded, "Well, in my opinion, Mentor High is entirely too large and too crowded. ...With all those kids crammed in there, there's bound to be some fights."
But school officials said that was an isolated incident. "Generally, there is a very low incidence of violence at the school," said Maynor. "Considering its population, it's a relatively serene place."
Maynor confirmed that there had been "several" student suicides in the "last couple of years," but he said that they had no connection to bullying. He said the school had "come a long way" in combating bullying and addressing "social sensitivities."
School Says No Bully Problem
"We don't believe it's a problem," Maynor told ABCNews.com. "We have a program of anti-bullying education to raise awareness for students about what constitutes bullying and differences among students."
The school uses the Olweus Anti-bullying program, but the Mohats said the program is ineffective for high school students. According to Olweus, which is based at Clemson University in Georgia, the program is designed for elementary and middle school children.
"The basic idea of Olweus is that a lot of kids are acting as bullies because they feel bad about themselves and it raises self-esteem," Mohat said. "But when a 200-pound linebacker hits a 100-pound kid, how can it help? He's already the alpha male in building."
A 2007 review of the Olweus program in the Journal of Adolsecent Health concludes that it "had some mixed positive effects varying by gender, ethnicity/race and grade but no overall effect."
The Mohats allege that school officials urged students not to cooperate with the police investigation. "Nobody would take this seriously," said Myers. "We saw this horrendous bullying and no one could stop it."
The family was "trying to pick up the pieces and move on" when they learned there were other suicides in Eric Mohat's class that year, according to Myers. After the police investigation, the family wanted to "hold school officials accountable."
With the second anniversary of Eric Mohat's death and what would have been his 19th birthday this month, Jan Mohat said, "You could accept it if it were an accident, but the way he went is just not right."
"According to the kids who talked to us, his class was hell on earth," she said. But school officials took the attitude that "they are just being kids, boys are just being boys."
"When he came on and told us about what going on, I said I need to be involved, but he said, 'No, it's under control,' that the teacher had caught them and handled it," said his mother.
But days before the suicide, Eric Mohat told his mother, "I get picked on every day and I've got a whole nine weeks left. I can't do this anymore."
"We never had a chance to help him," she said, choking back tears.
"It shouldn't require legal action to get the school system to pay more attention to bullying than they do to their sports programs," said his father. "How many suicides is enough?"
ABC News' information specialist Melissa Lenderman contributed to this report.