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Courts and Crime


Sister of suicide victim claims complaints about school bullies were ignored
Sladjana Vidovic's family is suing the Mentor schools
by WKSU's VIVIAN GOODMAN


Reporter
Vivian Goodman
 
Suzanna Vidovic and attorney Ken Myers spoke for the family about the lawsuit filed yesterday against Mentor schools.
Courtesy of Vivian Goodman
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In The Region:
This morning near Mentor High School, the elder sister of a 16-year-old suicide victim relived the fall evening in 2008 when she found the girl hanging from her bedroom window. Suzana Vidovic believes her sister, Sladjana, was bullied to death.

The Vidovic family yesterday filed a lawsuit against the Mentor schools for failing to protect Sladjana despite the family's frequent complaints.

Against the backdrop of Mentor High School and surrounded by supporters and family, Suzana Vidovic said her sister had been happy, a good student, and involved in sports until the bullying began:

Suzana on threatening phone calls

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Windows Media / MP3 Download (0:21)


Suzana says the family asked school officials for help.

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Windows Media / MP3 Download (0:32)


(Click image for larger view.)

Mentor school officials have refused repeated requests by WKSU for comment about the Vidovic case. They say the district takes seriously its bullying prevention program, and the superintendent, Jacqueline Hoynes, told the Associated Press that the Mentor district will vigorously defend itself against the allegations. 

 

 

Mentor Public Schools Statement to the Media August 20, 2010

From Dr. Jacqueline Hoynes, Superintendent of Schools

 

Mentor Public Schools learned today that the family of Sladjana Vidovic has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the school district. Sladjana’s suicide in 2008 left us all deeply saddened, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the Vidovic family.

Because of legal and privacy concerns, we cannot comment on the specifics of the lawsuit except to say that we will vigorously defend the district against the allegations.

Our district puts the safety and welfare of its students ahead of all else, and over the last five years Mentor Public Schools has continued to increase its focus on combating bullying and harassment at all grade levels, from kindergarten to high school. In 2007, with the assistance of the Crossroads adolescent counseling center, Mentor Schools implemented the Olweus anti-bullying program in all 14 schools. Prior to this, each school had its own anti-bullying program in place. Olweus is an internationally-recognized bullying prevention program that is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This program is helping staff, students and families to better understand bullying and harassment and how to prevent it from occurring and stop it when it does occur.

All Mentor Schools staff – teachers, coaches, bus drivers, and other support staff – have been and continue to be trained to recognize problem situations and intervene to help students who may be the victims of bullying and harassment. Students are also learning the "bystander approach," which empowers students to speak up for their classmates if and when a problem arises.

Staff and students at Mentor High School are also working with the Lake County Suicide Prevention Coalition to ensure that students can recognize the warning signs for a student who may be at risk of suicide and tell an adult immediately. Named GAHTAH (Give A Hand, Take A Hand), the program trains high school students who present dramatic skits to their peers during study halls to illustrate the red flags of depression and suicide risk. Also at the high school, we are in the process of creating a new program to help students dealing with mental health issues to have extra support in a special classroom with a dedicated social worker. The program is specifically designed to help students who have undergone treatment for mental or emotional health issues transition back to the classroom.

Our school district is committed to maintaining a safe and secure environment for all students, and we will continue to work with staff, students and parents to prevent and stop bullying in our schools.


   
 


Related WKSU Stories

Lawsuit charges Mentor Schools with a 16-year-old's suicide
Thursday, August 19, 2010

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