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Education


Lawsuit charges Mentor Schools with a 16-year-old's suicide
Sladjana Vidovic's family alleges the school system allowed her to be bullied to death
by WKSU's VIVIAN GOODMAN


Reporter
Vivian Goodman
 
Sladjana Vidovic committed suicide on October 2, 2008. She was 16.
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On October 2, 2008, Sladjana Vidovic's older sister found her hanging out of a window with a rope around her neck. She was 16 and said in her suicide note that for half of her life, ever since her family emigrated from Bosnia, she had been bullied at school. The lawsuit filed today alleges that her family repeatedly complained about it but that Mentor School officials allowed the bullying to continue.
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Copy of the Vidovic lawsuit
 
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
EASTERN DIVISION
DRAGAN VIDOVIC ) Case No.
7220 Taft Street
Mentor, OH 44060 )
On his own behalf and
on behalf of the Estate of )
Sladjana Vidovic
and )
CELIJA VIDOVIC )
7220 Taft Street
Mentor, OH 44060 )
On her own behalf and
on behalf of the Estate of )
Sladjana Vidovic
)
)
Plaintiffs,
) COMPLAINT WITH
JURY DEMAND
-vs- )
)
MENTOR PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT
BOARD OF EDUCATION )
6451 Center Street
Mentor, OH 44060 )
and )
JACQUELINE A. HOYNES )
6451 Center Street
Mentor, OH 44060 )
In her official and
individual capacities )
and )
JOSEPH SPICCIA )
6477 Center Street
2
Mentor, OH 44060 )
In his official and
individual capacities )
)
and
)
JOHN DOE 1-10
Addresses Unknown )
Mentor, Ohio 44060
)
Defendants. )
INTRODUCTION
1. This is a complaint brought by private citizens, on their
own behalf and on behalf of the estate of their minor daughter, now
deceased, against a public entity and several of its officials and
employees for redress of violations of plaintiffs' civil rights.
The complaint seeks declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief.
JURISDICTION
2. Jurisdiction is invoked pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section
2000e and 28 U.S.C. Sections 1343(3) and (4). Claims are asserted
pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, 20
U.S.C. Section 1681 and 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. To the extent
declaratory relief is sought, claims are asserted pursuant to 28
U.S.C. Sections 2201 and 2202. Supplemental state claims are
asserted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1167, state statutes and
state common law.
3
PARTIES
3. Plaintiffs Dragan and Celija Vidovic are residents of
Mentor, Ohio in Lake County within the Northern District of Ohio.
They are the parents of Sladjana Vidovic, who is deceased and who
was at all relevant times a minor and a student at Mentor High
School within the Mentor Public School District in Mentor, Ohio.
They are suing on their own behalf and on behalf of the estate of
Sladjana Vidovic, of which they are co-administrators.
4. Defendant Mentor Public School District Board of Education
is a public entity which, acting under color of law, is responsible
for the formulation and implementation of all official governmental
laws, policies, regulations and procedures in effect for the Mentor
Public School District.
5. Defendant Jacqueline A. Hoynes was at all relevant times
the Superintendent of the Mentor Public School District; in that
capacity, acting under color of law, she is responsible for the
implementation of all official governmental laws, policies,
regulations and procedures governing the Mentor Public School
District. She is sued in her official and individual capacities.
6. Defendant Joseph Spiccia was at all relevant times a fulltime
employee of the Mentor Public School District, serving as the
Principal of Mentor High School; in that capacity, acting under
color of law, he is responsible for the implementation of all
official governmental laws, policies, regulations and procedures
governing Mentor High School. He is sued in his official and
individual capacities.
4
7. Defendants John Doe 1-10 are individuals, whose identities
are currently unknown, who are officials and/or employees of the
Mentor School District Board of Education, who knew or should have
known about the bullying of Sladjana Vidovic and failed to
adequately address the situation.
FACTS
8. Plaintiffs Dragan and Celija Vidovic are residents of
Mentor, Ohio. Their daughter, Sladjana Vidovic, was 16 years old
and a student at Mentor High School when, on October 2, 2008, she
tragically took her own life.
9. For many months prior to her death, Sladjana Vidovic
endured harassment and bullying at school at the hands of numerous
other students.
10. This harassment and bullying took the form of constant
name-calling, harassment based on her nationality, teasing and
verbal intimidation and on one occasion, being pushed down a set of
stairs at the high school.
11. The defendants knew or should have known about this
constant harassment.
12. Defendants Hoynes and Spiccia knew about the harassment
beause Mr. and/or Mrs. Vidovic, often accompanied by their other
daughter, visited and called the school on numerous occasions to
complain about the bullying, to ask that something be done, and to
warn school officials that Sladjana was depressed because of the
constant harassment.
5
13. The defendants also knew about the bullying because at
one point in 2007, Sladjana missed substantial amounts of school
time because she was hospitalized for emotional problems due to the
bullying and the parents told school officials why Sladjana was
missing school and where she was.
14. The defendants also knew about the bullying and that
bullying was a pervasive problem at Mentor High School because
during 2007 and 2008 four other Mentor High School students had
committed suicide, at least partially due to issues stemming from
bullying and Mr. and Mrs. Vidovic had specifically pleaded with
school officials not to let their daughter become another suicide
victim like the others.
15. The defendants' prior knowledge of the fact that Sladjana
was being regularly bullied and harassed and their failure to
intervene, and their knowledge that four other students were
victims of bullying and harassment that led to suicides and their
failure to act to curtail bullying and harassment constitutes
deliberate indifference in violation of Sladjana's rights.
16. The defendants' actions and omissions, in knowing that
Sladjana Vidovic was regularly bullied and harassed and their
failure to intervene, effectively deprived Sladjana Vidovic of
access to the school's resources and opportunities and were clearly
unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.
17. The actions and omissions of the defendants were similar
in nature, repeatedly continued over time and the effects of those
violations are still being felt today.
6
18. Due to the actions and omissions of the defendants,
jointly and severally, Sladjana Vidovic became so depressed that
she committed suicide, costing her her life and costing her parents
the companionship of their daughter and the parents suffered and
continue to suffer severe emotional distress.
19. The failure by defendants to adequately address the
bullying and harassment of Sladjana Vidovic is part of a policy and
practice of the Mentor Public School District Board of Education of
violating students' rights by ignoring bullying and harassment of
students by other students.
COUNT I
20. Plaintiffs reassert the foregoing as if fully rewritten
herein.
21. The actions of defendants constitute a violation of
plaintiffs' constitutional right, pursuant to the substantive and
procedural due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, to
familial relationships, which includes the right to the
companionship, care, custody and management of their child,
including the right to control her education; in Sladjana's case,
defendants' actions and omissions also constitute a violation of
her right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as well as
her right to familial relationships and her right to an education.
22. As a direct result of the actions and conduct of
defendants, plaintiffs suffered and continue to suffer extreme
emotional pain and suffering and loss of companionship with their
7
daughter; in Sladjana's case, she suffered extreme emotional
distress and loss of her life.
COUNT II
23. Plaintiffs reassert the foregoing as if fully rewritten
herein.
24. The actions of defendant Mentor Public School District
Board of Education, in failing to properly train its officials and
teachers in proper methods of recognizing, responding to and
preventing bullying and harassment, and in permitting bullying and
harassment, constitute a violation of defendant Mentor Public School
District Board of Education's obligations to maintain lawful
policies and procedures pursuant to Monell v. Dept. of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978).
25. As a direct result of the actions and conduct of
defendant, plaintiffs have suffered and continue to suffer extreme
emotional distress, loss of companionship, and in Sladjana's case,
extreme emotional distress and loss of life.
COUNT III
26. Plaintiffs reassert the foregoing as if fully rewritten
herein.
27. The actions of defendants constitute a violation of Title
IX, 20 U.S.C. Section 1681 by allowing the plaintiffs' minor
daughter to be harassed by other students.
28. As a direct result of the actions and conduct of
8
defendants, plaintiffs have suffered and continue to suffer extreme
emotional distress, loss of companionship and in the case of
Sladjana Vidovic, extreme emotional distress and loss of life.
COUNT IV
29. Plaintiffs reassert the foregoing as if fully rewritten
herein.
30. The actions of defendants, as enumerated above, constitute
negligence and/or gross negligence under state law.
31. As a direct result of the actions and conduct of
defendants, plaintiffs have suffered and continue to suffer extreme
emotional distress, loss of companionship and in the case of
Sladjana Vidovic, extreme emotional distress and loss of life.
COUNT V
32. Plaintiffs reassert the foregoing as if fully rewritten
herein.
33. The actions of defendants constitute malicious purpose,
bad faith and wanton and reckless conduct in violation of Ohio
Revised Code Section 2744.03(A)(6).
34. As a direct result of the actions and conduct of
defendants, plaintiffs have suffered and continue to suffer extreme
emotional distress, loss of companionship and in the case of
Sladjana Vidovic, extreme emotional distress and loss of life.
WHEREFORE, plaintiffs ask that this court grant the following
relief:
9
A) Declare that the acts and conduct of all
defendants constitute violations of
plaintiffs' constitutional, statutory and
common-law rights.
B) Enjoin defendants from violating the
constitutional and statutory rights of its
citizens.
C) Grant to the plaintiffs and against all
defendants, jointly and severally, an
appropriate amount of compensatory damages,
and against the individual defendants an
appropriate amount of punitive damages.
D) Grant to the plaintiffs and against all
defendants, jointly and severally, appropriate
costs and attorneys' fees.
E) Grant to the plaintiffs whatever other
relief the court deems appropriate.
Respectfully submitted,
/s/Kenneth D. Myers
KENNETH D. MYERS (0053655)
6100 Oak Tree Blvd., Suite 200
Cleveland, OH 44131
(216) 241-3900
Counsel for Plaintiffs
JURY DEMAND
Plaintiffs hereby demand a trial by jury.
/s/Kenneth D. Myers
KENNETH D. MYERS
Counsel for Plaintiffs
Listener Comments:

My child attends Mentor schools and it has a been a constant fight with them. In elementary school my child was bullied nearly everyday. When brought up to the teacher my child was told just to not pay attention to that person that was bullying. I had to talk to the principal numerous times and it wasn't until I threatened to get an attorney that something was finally done. However, this took 5 months. My childs grades suffered and his self esteem. At one point, at age 11, my child told me they would rather be dead than go back to that school. Personally, I think the teachers are the biggest bullies of them all.


Posted by: Mentor Parent (Mentor) on April 4, 2011 12:04PM
I hope the girls who bullied her, the same girls who laughed at her lifeless body, are charged. They shouldn't get away with this.


Posted by: Mini on January 30, 2011 2:01AM
Hi my names josh i was a friend of hers and i went to mentor public schools all my life. ive been teased because i am gay but i never let it get to me but wnat i wanted to say is i went to shore jr high and the first time i heard bout the bullying program was in 9th grade but only at shore have i heard of a bullying program. the 3 years i attended mentor high i never heard a word about any anti bullying program not even the club they say the have i would never believe mentor schools. last year in 12th grade this girl was making fun of me at lunch and i heard it so i took action and went to a sucurity guard and she still didnt stop so the sucurity guard got a cop involved and a friend of hers was talking back to the cop so he arrested her not the girl that was picking on me. then i went to the unit principals ofice mrs miller and asked if she could set up a meeting for me to talk to the girl she said yeah, couple months went by didnt have the meeting, so it was the second from the last week of school i went back down there and said are you ever going to have a meeting she said there is nothing she can do so i told hher to fuck off and she did thats my outlook of mentor high


Posted by: Joshua Balog (Mentor) on December 9, 2010 6:12AM
Bullying not only goes on at the Mentor High School. It is at the middle schools too. My daughter was bullied at Memorial Junior High a few years ago. I had called the school several times and nothing was done about it. Their suggestion was for my daughter to talk to the person who was bullying her. Don't they get it, she really didn't want anything to do with this person. It is tragic that there has been so many lives lost at this school due to bullying. I can't even imagine the pain that the families are going through. On any given day my son would come home and tell me about what was going on at Mentor High. I think as parents we can get the schools attention by having legal action brought against the child who is bullying our children before it becomes one more lost life. If we can't get the schools to do something then we need to take matters into our own hands. That is what the law is for......... God Bless our Nation!


Posted by: Concerned Parent (Mentor) on October 12, 2010 8:10AM
This is terrible, she was a sweet, happy, pretty girl and her life had to end in such a horrible way and in such vain. I read in another article that a boy once pushed her down some stairs, in my school if a boy did that to a lady he would be in the hospital himself. I cant imagine all the people that probably saw this happening and let it go, when people start getting openly violent (especially to a girl) its time heads role. RIP Sladjana


Posted by: Helsing (New Hampshire) on October 9, 2010 1:10AM
I don't know why people are acting shocked at the fact that some students suicide to escape bullies in high school. Sometimes suicide seems like the only escape.

But if you want to find the true cause of these problems, you need to go right to the source. The Board of Education.

That's right, the ruling body that is supposed to be teaching our kids are giving them the wrong message.

From the time a student enters high school, they know there is royalty. In high school the royalty is THE POPULARS. Because The Board of Education encourages competition between schools, each school recruits students to fill out the teams. And of course each school has their own cheerleading squad. These 2 to 5 % become the school's elites. They get special privileges. They are graded easier. They are forgiven disrupting classes. They get let out early to practice and when there is a conflict because an elite is bullying another student, the teachers usually side with The Populars. Before Christmas of a new students first year, they know the score. The school sides with their prize winners over normal students. The teachers even pressure the normal students to attend games. Of course this has a lot to due with ticket sales, but, it enforces the message these few students are special.

The Populars rule the school with the teachers backing them up. If you really wanted to end a lot of the bullying in schools, get rid of the inter-school competitions. So long as there's a trophy or plaque for a school to win to prove they are better then the other schools, they will continue to treat the elites as better then the rest.

Teachers more then anyone else are the major cause of bullying in our schools. So long as teachers raise a few students up and allow them to do whatever thay want without punishment, bullying will always be a part of our schools. Most people who have gone through high school have seen this kind of thing for themselves and for those who don't remember this right away, think back. Remember the popular crowd. Picture who was in it. Who was in that group? The jocks and cheerleaders? And think how the teachers treated these kids. Is a few trophys worth some kids life?


Posted by: Fed_Up (USA) on October 8, 2010 9:10AM
why hold the school liable? go after the kids who do the bullying! Sure, sue the school, that will stop it. wake up people!


Posted by: alex (PA) on October 8, 2010 4:10AM
This is an absolute tragedy and certainly could have been prevented. I was bullied 40 years ago and still remember the culprits names and faces.I never participated in school events because of it. Guidence counselor was useless, as were the teachers. It took me an extra year to complete hs because of it. Get a clue people. I made sure my kids did not suffer the same fate.


Posted by: Dan on October 3, 2010 1:10AM
I was a freshman at Mentor High School when this occurred. It truly was a tragic event for everyone at the school, even I, who didn't even know who she was. I can honestly agree that nothing has been done to help with the bullying issue at this school, and it is just downright awful.


Posted by: Kyle (Mentor, Ohio) on September 29, 2010 7:09AM
Any type of harassment or bullying should be dealt with as a criminal offense. It's no different than bringing drugs or a weapon to a school and should be dealt with in the same way. Bullies should be barred from the school where the offense took place.


Posted by: Daniel (Canada) on September 21, 2010 2:09AM
What a Nazi kids. This is terrible. Hope they now they took a life.
Who needs terrorists when you have got such evil school "friends".


Posted by: JOe (Europe) on August 21, 2010 11:08AM
There have been at least two allegations that Mentor Schools have been complicit in bullycides. School districts across the country and the world turn a blind eye to bullying. So does the military. Until people in positions of authority start being held accountable for the consequences of bullying, they will continue to ignore it and thereby condone it.


Posted by: Phil Brett (Cleveland) on August 19, 2010 6:08AM
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