The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (LARA) was introduced this week, six years after Congress last considered legislation to discourage frivolous lawsuits in federal court.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX),chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced the bill’s introduction on Wednesday. A news release summarized:
The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (LARA) imposes mandatory sanctions for lawyers who file meritless suits in federal court. Federal rules mandating sanctions for frivolous suits were watered down in 1993, resulting in the current crisis of widespread lawsuit abuse. LARA restores the mandatory sanctions which hold attorneys accountable for lawsuit abuse.
Specifically, the legislation:
- Reinstates the requirement that if there is a violation of Rule 11, there are sanctions (Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure was originally intended to deter frivolous lawsuits by sanctioning the offending party).
- Requires that judges impose monetary sanctions against lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits. Those monetary sanctions will include the attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the victim of the frivolous lawsuit.
- Reverses the 1993 amendments to Rule 11 that allow parties and their attorneys to avoid sanctions for making frivolous claims by withdrawing them within 21 days after a motion for sanctions has been served.
Congress last debated LARA in 2005, when H.R. 420 passed the House only to disappear into the Senate. Democrats took control of Congress in the 2006 elections, which put an end to legislative efforts toward tort reform at the federal level.
The new legislation drops the state-specific language that caused political trouble last time and would likely draw the ire of federalism-minded House Republicans. As Victor Schwartz, general counsel for the American Tort Reform Association, tells us, “This new version of LARA has greater political and practical strength. It is trimmer and focuses solely on the problem: stopping frivolous claims. The President of the United States recognized this problem in his State of the Union and Congress should act now to end unnecessary and costly lawsuit abuse.”
Schwartz is one of three witnesses scheduled to testify Friday before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution’s hearing on the bill. The others are Elizabeth A. Milito of National Federation of Independent Business’ Professor Lonny Hoffman of the University of Houston Law Center. Hoffman is a past critic of the legislation; in 2006 he published, “The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act: The Legislative Bid to Regulate Lawyer Conduct,” in The Review of Litigation.
We’ve encountered Hoffman’s writings before in our reading on the predations of Milberg Weiss. Last year Hoffman and Alan F. Steinberg released, “The Ongoing Milberg Weiss Controversy,” a rebuttal of an empirical study by Michael A. Perino and an apparent attempt to exonerate the law firm for rigging class-action lawsuits. In the abstract, the two authors conclude:
The big take away that Perino offers at the end of his study – that the evidence contradicts the claim that kickbacks paid to the named plaintiffs were a “victimless crime” – is not supported by the data he has collected and reported. Far from demonstrating that kickbacks allowed Milberg to obtain higher fees, his study fails to rule out the possibility that other, entirely benign reasons could explain the higher fees Milberg received, including that the fees were earned by the results obtained in settlements of the indictment cases.
Apologists for Milberg Weiss are few and far between. We’ll be interested in seeing the same legal approach applied to Hoffman’s opposition to the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act.
Categories: General Abuse Laws Tags:
(1) provide each new employee of the agency or department with educational and training materials concerning the United States Constitution as part of the orientation materials provided to the new employee; and
(2) provide educational and training materials concerning the United States Constitution to each employee of the agency or department on September 17 of each year.
(b) Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.
“When the people no longer read or understand their Constitution, then they will live in a POLICE STATE” –Robert Wangrud.
Original documentation of Public Law 108-477, Section 111, can be found on Page 4 of the following url: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/serialset/creports/pdf/108-792/108-792_p537-638_divj.pdf..
Categories: General Abuse Laws Tags:
A search warrant is an order signed by a judge that authorizes police officers to search for specific objects or materials at a definite location at a specified time. For example, a warrant may authorize the search of “the premises at 11359 Happy Glade Avenue between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.” and direct the police to search for and seize “cash, betting slips, record books, and every other means used in connection with placing bets on horses.”
How Police Obtain Search Warrants
Police officers obtain search warrants by convincing a judge or magistrate that they have “probable cause” to believe that criminal activity is occurring at the place to be searched or that evidence of a crime may be found there. Usually, the police provide the judge or magistrate with information in the form of written statements under oath, called “affidavits,” which report either their own observations, or those of private citizens or police undercover informants. If the magistrate believes that the affidavit establishes probable cause to conduct a search, he or she will issue a warrant.
The suspect, who may be connected with the place to be searched, is not present when the warrant is issued and therefore cannot contest the issue of probable cause at that time. However, the suspect can later challenge the validity of the warrant before trial.
What Police Can Search for and Seize Under a Warrant
The police can search only the place described in a warrant and usually can seize only the property that the warrant describes. The police cannot search a house if the warrant specifies the backyard, nor can they search for weapons if the warrant specifies marijuana plants. However, this does not mean that police officers can seize only those items listed in the warrant. If, in the course of their search, police officers come across contraband or evidence of a crime that is not listed in the warrant, they can lawfully seize the unlisted items.
If the warrant specifies a certain person to be searched, the police can search only that person, unless they have independent probable cause to search other persons who happen to be present at the scene of a search. If an officer merely has a reasonable suspicion that an onlooker is engaged in criminal activity, the officer can only question the onlooker and, if necessary for the officer’s safety, conduct a frisk for weapons (but not do a full search).
When Search Warrants Aren’t Required
Most searches occur without warrants being issued. Over the years, the courts have defined a number of situations in which a search warrant is not necessary, either because the search is per se reasonable under the circumstances or because, due to a lack of a reasonable expectation of privacy, the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply at all.
If the person in control of the premises freely and voluntarily agrees to the search, the search is valid and whatever the officers find is admissible in evidence. Police officers do not have to warn people that they have a right to refuse consent to a search. If a police officer wrangles a consent through trickery or coercion, the consent does not validate the search.
Many disputes about consent have to do with who has the right to consent. If there are two or more separate tenants in one dwelling, courts often rule that one tenant has no power to consent to a search of the areas exclusively controlled by the other tenants (for instance, their separate bedrooms). Similarly, a landlord lacks authority to consent to a search of leased premises. The same is true for hotel operators.
On the other hand, an employer can validly consent to a search of company premises, which extends to an employee’s work area but not to clearly private areas such as an employee’s clothes locker. A tricky twist is that the consent in these types of cases will be considered valid if the police reasonably believe that the consenting person has the authority to consent, even if it turns out they don’t.
The Plain View Doctrine
Police officers do not need a warrant to search and seize contraband or evidence that is “in plain view” if the officer has a right to be where the evidence or contraband is first spotted. For instance, the police may search for and seize marijuana growing outdoors if they first spot the marijuana from an airplane or helicopter, since the marijuana is deemed to be in plain view. Similarly, if an officer walks by a car and spots evidence or contraband through the car window, a search may be conducted without a warrant. The same rule would apply if an officer is in your home for other valid reasons and spots drugs on a table or cabinet.
Search Made in Connection With an Arrest
Police officers do not need a warrant to make a search “incident to an arrest.” After an arrest, police officers have the right to protect themselves by searching for weapons and to protect the legal case against the suspect by searching for evidence that the suspect might try to destroy.
Police may sometimes also make what’s known as a “protective sweep” following an arrest if they have a reasonable belief that a dangerous accomplice might be hiding inside a residence. When making a protective sweep, police officers can walk through a residence and make a “cursory visual inspection” of places where an accomplice might be hiding. For example, police officers could look under beds and inside closets. If a sweep is lawful, the police can lawfully seize contraband or evidence of crime that is in plain view during the sweep.
The Emergency Exception
As a general rule, the police are authorized to make a warrantless search when the time it would take to get a warrant would jeopardize public safety or lead to the loss of important evidence. Here are some situations in which most judges would uphold a warrantless search:
- An officer checks an injured motorist for possible injuries following a collision and finds illegal drugs.
- Following a street drug arrest, an officer enters the house after the suspect shouts into the house, “Eddie, quick, flush it!” The officer arrests Eddie and seizes the stash.
- A police officer on routine patrol hears shouts and screams coming from a residence, rushes in, and arrests a suspect for spousal abuse.
- A police officer “in hot pursuit” of a fleeing suspect continues the chase into the suspect’s dwelling in order to make the arrest.
In these types of emergency situations, an officer’s duty to protect people and preserve evidence outweighs the warrant requirement.
Allowing Police to Make a Warrantless Search
A search warrant is not always legally necessary, and a police officer may have information of which a person is unaware that allows the officer to make a warrantless entry. If an officer announces an intention to enter a home or building without a warrant, a person should not risk injury or a separate charge of “interfering with a police officer.” Rather, the person should stand aside, let the officer proceed and allow a court to decide later whether the officer’s actions were proper. At the same time, the person should make it clear that he or she does not consent to the search.
Searches of Cars and Their Occupants
Cars may be searched without a warrant whenever the car has been validly stopped and the police have probable cause to believe the car contains contraband or evidence. If the police have probable cause to search the car, all compartments and packages that may contain the evidence or contraband being searched for are fair game.
While a police officer cannot search a car simply because the car was stopped for a traffic infraction, the police can order the driver and any passengers out of the car for safety considerations, even though there is no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing other than the traffic infraction. The police also can “frisk” the occupants for weapons if the officers have a “reasonable suspicion” that the occupants are involved in criminal activity and are reasonably concerned for their safety.
For More Information
To answer all your questions about the legality of various police searches and seizures, get The Criminal Law Handbook: Know Your Rights, Survive the System, by Paul Bergman and Sara J. Berman (Nolo).
State & Federal Websites
Government Websites, Agencies, & Offices, Child Protective Services, State Law Searches, Other Public Resources
“Thomas Legislative Information on the Internet” ~
searches by bill text, bill number, or key terms;
Congress in the News; House and Senate: Floor activities;
bill summary & status; House & Senate roll call votes;
and many more issues related to Congress.
Intrusive child protective agency scrutiny and interventions are often fueled by negative beliefs about concentrated poverty, environmentally distressed racially segregated neighborhoods, and cultural stereotypes of at-risk families. What can be done?
Promote safe alternatives to removal.
The legal profession should encourage nonadversarial “differential (a.k.a. alternative) response systems” and “family group decisionmaking processes” 3 that help provide at-risk children and parents resources to avoid court intervention while addressing important familial issues they face. Rapidly implementing 2008 federal law reforms that promote state-subsidized placement with relatives (in lieu of foster care), when parents cannot provide proper care, should also be promoted. 4 Removal decisions must focus
on objective child safety criteria. 5 Judges should ask those seeking removal about safe alternatives, such as placement with family friends, relatives, or neighbors, use of arrest
powers or restraining orders to get abusive adults out of a home, or use
of immediate in-home, emergency child care, and respite services. Ensure access to quality services for parents and children. Judges and lawyers should advocate for prompt access to key services … (Download PDF here)
1) Take the accusation seriously. I don’ t care how absurd or unbelievable the caseworker sounds. Understand that SHE is serious, and likely presumes – no, likely KNOWS that you are guilty as accused. Even if she doesn’ t flat out say that she’ s there to take the children, she is quite possibly intent on doing just that.
In testimony to Congress, Chris Klicka, senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, stated that a case worker with 30 years’ experience once confided in him that “When I started working, we tried to prove the family was innocent. Now we assume they are guilty until they prove they are not.”
2) Ask what the charges are. Most of the time, the caseworker wants to keep you in the dark as to what you have been accused of, but she is now required by federal and state law to tell you the nature of the accusation at her first contact with you.
And don’t settle for the answer of “abuse” or “neglect.” Those are categories, not accusations. You are entitled to know what specific actions you are accused of committing.
3) Shut up. Shut up now. It is imperative that you not talk to anyone but your attorney. It is natural that innocent parents who have nothing to hide want to explain everything so that a reasonable person can see there’s no problem here. But CPS agents are not reasonable. You are presumed guilty. That caseworker is there to find evidence to support what she already believes to be true – that you abused your child.
If you say nothing to them, you have taken away their greatest weapon, which is their ability to twist your words. Let me give you some examples of what was done to parents who did talk to them:
The husband of a client of mine had been accused of sexually molesting their autistic, non- verbal daughter. The CPS investigator asked the mother if her daughter had exhibited any unusual behavior lately. The only thing she could think of was that a couple of times the month before, the girl had wanted her mother to come lay down with her for a few minutes. Usually, she would just go in and go right to sleep. The investigator stated to the court that the mother admitted her child had become afraid of her own bedroom.
One father I defended told the caseworker that he had disciplined his daughter over a 20 minute period, where he would talk to her about what she had done wrong, swat her a few times, and then talk some more. The investigator stated to the court that the father admitted to beating his child non-stop for 20 minutes.
4) You must find an attorney who has experience in fighting CPS, as soon as you realize your family is being investigated. Notice I said experience in fighting CPS. Many attorneys- if not most – believe their role is to find out what CPS wants and make sure their clients do it. That way often leads to disaster – and the loss of your children.
5) Be polite. Hostility toward the investigator is considered evidence of guilt. Your perfectly natural angry reaction to being accused of harming your child will be used as evidence of an abusive personality.
6) Under no circumstances should you let any government agent in your home unless he or she has a warrant or order issued by a court. Ask to see the warrant or order, because the CPS worker may lie and say she has one when she doesn’t. When she doesn’t have one, politely but firmly tell her that she will have to stay outside until she gets one. If she claims it’s an emergency, make her tell you what it is. Call her bluff – if it were a true emergency, she would be there with armed police officers, forcing her way in. Do not even open the door to let her look at the children.
There is no compromise on this. There is no exception. If you invite a caseworker into your home, you have waived your fourth amendment protection. And if the caseworker is intent on taking your children, SHE WILL FIND SOMETHING IN YOUR HOME TO JUSTIFY IT. THAT IS A GUARANTEE.
Understand that you may be threatened. You may be lied to. She may tell you that the 4 th amendment doesn’ t apply to caseworkers. That is a lie. She may tell you that she doesn’ t need a warrant. That is a lie. She may tell you that she’ll return with armed police officers. And she will. But that changes nothing. Even a man with a gun on your porch doesn’t change the fact that she still has no right to enter your home.
Listen to the words of an ex-CPS investigator:
“I wish I could shout from the highest mountain to parents to vigilantly learn their rights! If they knew what their legal rights were there would be significantly lower numbers of child removals. Social workers, unlike policemen making an arrest, are not required to inform the parents of their legal rights. All we had to do to remove a child was to show up at the home and tell the parents we came to remove the kids. Often times we would take a police officer with us (never telling the parents he was there for MY protection, not to enforce an order or warrant). 99% of the time we never had to get a warrant or court order to remove kids because the parents would be so intimidated by the officer that they would just hand their kids over and show up for court the next day. But if they had legally known their parental rights, they could simply have told me that I could not take the children unless I had a court order signed by the judge or had a warrant to remove the kids. … the majority of times parents were just intimidated and gave consent for the whole process to begin; completely unknowing of what rights they just waived.”
If officers do force their way in, do not physically resist. Make your objections clear, but stand aside. There’s no point in getting arrested, or risking injury or death. Your children need you. Demand that you not be separated from your children, and that your children be interrogated only with your attorney present. (This demand will likely be ignored, but demand it anyway. The fact that you did may become important in later court proceedings.)
7) Demand that CPS tape any interrogation of your child. They are required by Texas law to do so. Bring your own recorder in case the CPS agent “loses” her tape.
If the accusation is one of physical abuse, have your doctor give your child a thorough physical exam. Ask him to write a letter stating that no bruises, marks, or health concerns were found on the child that would create suspicion of child abuse or neglect. Go to a doctor you trust. Never never never go to a doctor recommended by CPS.
9) Gather names of friends and relatives who are willing and able to care for your children if CPS takes them. If your children must spend time away from you, it’s far better that they do so with people you know and trust than in an abusive foster facility.
10) Never admit guilt, even if CPS has taken your children and offers to give them back if you do. It would be immoral to do so if you truly haven’t done anything, and it may be a quick way to jail and to lose your kids forever. CPS agents are not above lying to you to prove your guilt.
Go here to learn more: http://www.bransonlegal.com/Ten_Things.html
The Problem with Plea Bargaining
(c) 1994-1998 Steven Silberblatt
QUESTION: To be “voluntary” within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment, a statement by a criminal defendant must be a product of free will, unencumbered by threats or promises. Coercion of any kind, whether physical or psychological, is prohibited, and a statement found to be involuntary will (theoretically, at least) be suppressed.
That being the case, why is the Criminal Justice System permitted to make promises (of leniency, e.g.) and threats (of maximum time after a trial conviction) in order to induce defendants to give up all of their constitutional trial rights, including the right to remain silent?
How can the Criminal Justice System get away with violating the very constitutional rights it functions to protect in order to conduct its everyday business of plea bargaining?
ANSWER: In theory, the fact that a defendant is in a court environment, surrounded by all the trappings of due process (including the creation of a formal record for appellate review, a judge sworn to uphold the law, and counsel for his defense) protects her from the possible abuses which might take place in the back room of a precinct station house, were the police allowed to engage in the same “bargaining” process in order to elicit confessions.
The role of counsel is critical to justify what the system does; in theory, if there were something legally or factually wrong with the process, counsel would be there to register an objection and to prevent the plea from being entered.
In fact, however, the vast majority of defendants plead guilty because the system makes them “an offer they can’t refuse, ” much like the mob. The system functions like a gigantic extortion racket in which the attorney plays the role of “bagman,” the person who transmits the threats (under the guise of legal advice) and collects the payment (the plea).
To the extent that the attorney loses bail arguments or pre-trial motions to suppress, a defendant’s faith in the powers of his lawyer and/or the integrity of the system is eroded to the point where resistance seems futile.
Lengthy pre-trial incarceration further weakens and demoralizes a defendant and increases the coercive aspects of plea bargaining (particularly where, as in the case of many indigent defendants unable to post bail, taking a plea is the only sure way to regain personal freedom).
The system “gets away” with it because there is no economic alternative, not because anyone really believes the justifications recited above. Formal procedural justice (the complex rules which govern criminal trials) was never intended to cope with the volume of cases now being sucked into the vacuum cleaner of the system.
As more conduct is criminalized, and more defendants need to be processed, criminal trials are a luxury which society can no longer afford, except in the most serious or unusual case.
We function schizophrenically; our legal ideology is bound to a system of values we no longer actually cherish, and are unwilling therefore to finance.
Like a Hollywood set, our system presents to the public a facade of “rights” while the same system systematically violates those rights as the only means to insure its own survival.
Last updated on September 25, 1998
Oct 8, 4:01 pm ET
MENTOR, Ohio – Sladjana Vidovic’s body lay in an open casket, dressed in the sparkly pink dress she had planned to wear to the prom. Days earlier, she had tied one end of a rope around her neck and the other around a bed post before jumping out her bedroom window.
The 16-year-old’s last words, scribbled in English and her native Croatian, told of her daily torment at Mentor High School, where students mocked her accent, taunted her with insults like “Slutty Jana” and threw food at her.
It was the fourth time in little more than two years that a bullied high school student in this small Cleveland suburb on Lake Erie died by his or her own hand — three suicides, one overdose of antidepressants. One was bullied for being gay, another for having a learning disability, another for being a boy who happened to like wearing pink.
Now two families — including the Vidovics — are suing the school district, claiming their children were bullied to death and the school did nothing to stop it. The lawsuits come after a national spate of high-profile suicides by gay teens and others, and during a time of national soul-searching about what can be done to stop it.
[Related: School-yard bullying: A survivor's tale]
If there has been soul-searching among the bullies in Mentor — a pleasant beachfront community that was voted one of the “100 Best Places to Live” by CNN and Money magazine this year — Sladjana’s family saw too little of it at her wake in October 2008.
Suzana Vidovic found her sister’s body hanging over the front lawn. The family watched, she said, as the girls who had tormented Sladjana for months walked up to the casket — and laughed.
“They were laughing at the way she looked,” Suzana says, crying. “Even though she died.”
Sladjana Vidovic, whose family had moved to northeast Ohio from Bosnia when she was a little girl, was pretty, vivacious and charming. She loved to dance. She would turn on the stereo and drag her father out of his chair, dance him in circles around the living room.
“Nonstop smile. Nonstop music,” says her father, Dragan, who speaks only a little English.
At school, life was very different. She was ridiculed for her thick accent. Classmates tossed insults like “Slutty Jana” or “Slut-Jana-Vagina.” A boy pushed her down the stairs. A girl smacked her in the face with a water bottle.
Phone callers in the dead of night would tell her to go back to Croatia, that she’d be dead in the morning, that they’d find her after school, says Suzana Vidovic.
“Sladjana did stand up for herself, but toward the end she just kind of stopped,” says her best friend, Jelena Jandric. “Because she couldn’t handle it. She didn’t have enough strength.”
[Related: Cyber-bullying: When enough is enough]
Vidovic’s parents say they begged the school to intervene many times. They say the school promised to take care of her.
She had already withdrawn from Mentor and enrolled in an online school about a week before she killed herself.
When the family tried to retrieve records about their reports of bullying, school officials told them the records were destroyed during a switch to computers. The family sued in August.
Two years after her death, Dragan Vidovic waves his hand over the family living room, where a vase of pink flowers stands next to a photograph of Sladjana.
“Today, no music,” he says sadly. “No smile.”
Eric Mohat was flamboyant and loud and preferred to wear pink most of the time. When he didn’t get the lead soprano part in the choir his freshman year, he was indignant, his mother says.
He wore a stuffed animal strapped to his arm, a lemur named Georges that was given its own seat in class.
“It was a gag,” says Mohat’s father, Bill. “And all the girls would come up to pet his monkey. And in his Spanish class they would write stories about Georges.”
Mohat’s family and friends say he wasn’t gay, but people thought he was.
“They called him fag, homo, queer,” says his mother, Jan. “He told us that.”
Bullies once knocked a pile of books out of his hands on the stairs, saying, “‘Pick up your books, faggot,’” says Dan Hughes, a friend of Eric’s.
Kids would flick him in the head or call him names, says 20-year-old Drew Juratovac, a former student. One time, a boy called Mohat a “homo,” and Juratovac told him to leave Mohat alone.
“I got up and said, ‘Listen, you better leave this kid alone. Just walk away,’” he says. “And I just hit him in the face. And I got suspended for it.”
Eric Mohat shot himself on March 29, 2007, two weeks before a choir trip to Hawaii.
His parents asked the coroner to call it “bullicide.” At Eric’s funeral and after his death, other kids told the Mohats that they had seen the teen relentlessly bullied in math class. The Mohats demanded that police investigate, but no criminal activity was found.
[Related: 6 signs of cyber-bullying and what you can do about it]
Two years later, in April 2009, the Mohats sued the school district, the principal, the superintendent and Eric’s math teacher. The federal lawsuit is on hold while the Ohio Supreme Court considers a question of state law regarding the case.
“Did we raise him to be too polite?” Bill Mohat wonders. “Did we leave him defenseless in this school?”
Meredith Rezak, 16, shot herself in the head three weeks after the death of Mohat, a good friend of hers. Her cell phone, found next to her body, contained a photograph of Mohat with the caption “R.I.P. Eric a.k.a. Twiggy.”
Rezak was bright, outgoing and a well-liked player on the volleyball team. Shortly before her suicide, she had joined the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and told friends and family she thought she might be gay.
Juratovac says Rezak endured her own share of bullying — “name-calling, just stupid trivial stuff” — but nobody ever knew it was getting to her.
“Meredith ended up coming out that she was a lesbian,” he says. “I think much of that sparked a lot of the bullying from a lot of the other girls in school, ’cause she didn’t fit in.”
Her best friend, Kevin Simon, doesn’t believe that bullying played a role in Rezak’s death. She had serious issues at home that were unrelated to school, he says.
After Mohat’s death, people saw Rezak crying at school, and friends heard her talk of suicide herself.
A year after Rezak’s death, the older of her two brothers, 22-year-old Justin, also shot and killed himself. His death certificate mentioned “chronic depressive reaction.”
This March, her only other sibling, Matthew, died of a drug overdose at age 21.
Their mother, Nancy Merritt, lives in Colorado now. She doesn’t think Meredith was bullied to death but doesn’t really know what happened. On the phone, her voice drifts off, sounding disconnected, confused.
“So all three of mine are gone,” she says. “I have to keep breathing.”
Most mornings before school, Jennifer Eyring would take Pepto-Bismol to calm her stomach and plead with her mother to let her stay home.
“She used to sob to me in the morning that she did not want to go,” says her mother, Janet. “And this is going to bring tears to my eyes. Because I made her go to school.”
Eyring, 16, was an accomplished equestrian who had a learning disability. She was developmentally delayed and had a hearing problem, so she received tutoring during the school day. For that, her mother says, she was bullied constantly.
By the end of her sophomore year in 2006, Eyring’s mother had decided to pull her out of Mentor High School and enroll her in an online school the following autumn. But one night that summer, Jennifer walked into her parents’ bedroom and told them she had taken some of her mother’s antidepressant pills to make herself feel better. Hours later, she died of an overdose.
[Related: Stop bullying by complaining – in writing]
The Eyrings do not hold Mentor High accountable, but they believe she would be alive today had she not been bullied. Her parents are speaking out in hopes of preventing more tragedies.
“It’s too late for my daughter,” Janet Eyring says, “but it may not be too late for someone else.”
No official from Mentor public schools would comment for this story. The school also refused to provide details on its anti-bullying program.
Some students say the problem is the culture of conformity in this city of about 50,000 people: If you’re not an athlete or cheerleader, you’re not cool. And if you’re not cool, you’re a prime target for the bullies.
But that’s not so different from most high schools. Senior Matt Super, who’s 17, says the suicides unfairly paint his school in a bad light.
“Not everybody’s a good person,” he says. “And in a group of 3,000 people, there are going to be bad people.”
StopCyberbulling.org founder Parry Aftab says this is the first time she’s heard of two sets of parents suing a school at the same time for two independent cases of bullying or cyberbullying. No one has been accused of bullying more than one of the teens who died.
Barbara Coloroso, a national anti-bullying expert, says the school is allowing a “culture of mean” to thrive, and school officials should be held responsible for the suicides — along with the bullies.
“Bullying doesn’t start as criminal. They need to be held accountable the very first time they call somebody a gross term,” Coloroso says. “That is the beginning of dehumanization.”
ARRESTS AND SUMMONSES
From the Columbia Tribune Newspaper, Columbia, Missouri
Monday, July 12, 2010
Authorities made the following arrests and issued summonses from 7 a.m. July 10 to 7 a.m. July 11.
Derrick Wayne Morton, 42, of 3911 Olympic Court, third-degree domestic assault, $1,000 bond.
The 12 Steps
12Step.org has a great general version of the traditional 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to help people with all types of addictions or dysfunctional lifestyles.
- Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
- Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
- Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
- Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
- Step 5 – Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
- Step 6 – Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
- Step 7 – Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
- Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
- Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
- Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
- Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out
- Step 12 – Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs