According to William and Janis Mohat, their son Eric, a 17-year-old, was bullied to death at Mentor High School in Mentor, Ohio. On March 29, 2007 Mohat shot himself after relentless harassment and intimidation that included being pushed, shoved and hit a• not to mention being humiliated by being called a fag, a queer and a homo. Eric had never shown any interest in homosexuality at all.
Click here to read the full story on FOXNews.com The Mohats are suing their school district, alleging that one of Eric's teachers - Thomas M. Horvath - saw the bullying and did nothing to stop it. Two other students committed suicide the same year Eric did. His parents say bullying was a factor in their deaths, too. And another parent, named Dan Hughes, reportedly withdrew his son Brandon from the school after he was picked on, non-stop.
The Mohats aren't after cash. They want to force the school system to put a comprehensive and effective anti-bullying program in place. I think they should be after both. I also think they should urge local authorities to press criminal harassment (and possibly wrongful death) charges against Eric's bullies.
Bullying is an old problem that repeated and dogged litigation may be the only way to solve. The litigation may have to be as relentless as the bullying itself.
Schools have, for decades, either utterly ignored or done far too little to fix the bullying that takes place in their schoolyards and classrooms, cafeterias, restrooms and hallways. Too little is done to prevent bullying, and bullies aren't sufficiently disciplined. Eric Mohat's assailants, for instance, should have been identified, punished and, if they persisted, suspended from school. Period. The same goes for bullies in any other school district, in any other community.
As a psychiatrist who has treated bullies and their victims, I believe that early detection of aggressive kids and vulnerable kids, with preventive strategies targeted toward each can be effective. But reaching deep into the souls of bullies to find out what shattered their empathy and turned them into child predators (yes, predators) can take a fair amount of time. So when bullies are identified, the first order of business has to be to stop their emotional and physical abusiveness-through discipline, containment, suspension or expulsion. The healing work of identifying and addressing the roots of their violence can then begin.
Eric Mohat allegedly lost his life to bullying. Indeed, researchers have identified a connection between bullying and suicide. What's more, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that every day in this country160,000 children stay home from school because they fear bullies.
In my psychiatry practice, I have met adolescents, young adults and adults who bear the scars. Bullying can cause lasting low self-esteem, persistent anxiety and major depression. It can warp personality structure, either spawning a tendency toward irritability and violence in victims, or a tendency toward isolation and passivity.
The word needs to go out loud and clear, not only from William and Janis Mohat, but from school administrators and the law enforcement community, that bullying will be seen as any other form of assault. That means that child bullies get sent home from school and started in therapy, adolescent bullies get suspended from school or expelled (and started in therapy) and teenage bullies get their therapy, along with being suspended, expelled and/or referred to the juvenile justice system.
It's really that simple. I hope that that any school system, school administrator or teacher who ignores bullying is sued and has to dig very deep into their pockets to pay a very significant judgment. No amount will ever compensate victims and their families - certainly not those who lose sons or daughters to suicide. But using litigation (or the threat of it) to shape social policy may be the fastest route to keeping our kids safe at school.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement. Check out Dr. Ablow's website at
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.