As we close on Suicide Awareness Month and move into October, let’s not lose the importance behind the topic by remembering one of the most notable teen suicides in the 21st century. It’s been almost 14 years since the tragic suicide of Sladjana Vidovic, a bright young girl who had dreams of making a better life for herself.
Mentor High School student Sladjana Vidovic, 16, committed suicide by hanging herself after being bullied by other students for various reasons, including her ethnicity, accent, name, and attractiveness.
For months, Vidovic’s parents had complained to the personnel at Mentor High School about the “merciless bullying” their daughter had been subjected to at school. Despite their repeated requests for help, the school had done nothing to alleviate their daughter’s misery.
At least five students at Mentor High School committed suicide between 2005 and 2008 as a direct result of bullying, though Sladjana Vidovic’s drew national attention to the school’s bullying culture.
Her story is a cautionary tale for all of us. No one should ever have to suffer the way she did. If you see someone being bullied, please speak up. It could save their life.
Sladjana Vidovic was the middle child of three for Dragan and Celija Vidovic. Though Vidovic was born in Croatia, her ancestors came from what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina. When she was nine years old, her family relocated to northeast Ohio. They had relocated to Mentor, Ohio from Croatia to escape oppression and picked the city for its rank as one of the Top 100 American Cities to Live.
Vidovic was a gorgeous, lively, and pleasant young lady who took pride in her family, liked dancing and cooking, and was excited to grow in her new life in America.
Although Vidovic’s suicide note states that the bullying she experienced at school started in Ridge Elementary School, she did not experience serious bullying there. In elementary school, Vidovic’s teachers tried their best to help her overcome her language barrier and participate fully in school activities.
In 2005, while still a student at Ridge Junior High School, Vidovic began regularly attending guidance counseling sessions. These sessions discussed the difficulties she was having making and maintaining friendships and the constant rumors that she was a lesbian due to her limited interactions with male peers.
In April of 2007, she was reported to have threatened suicide by a counselor at Ridge Junior High School. Because of the severe bullying her daughter experienced, her mother asked for a transfer to a different junior high school within the district. This was a request that couldn’t be granted.
After starting at Mentor High School in August 2007, Vidovic was subjected to a dramatic escalation in the level of bullying she experienced. Many of her classmates, including those who had been her friends before, began calling her names like “Slutty Jana” and “Sladjana Vagina” and making fun of her accent and Eastern European name, much as they had done at Ridge Junior High School.
In one of the incidents, a teenager Jerry Markley was reported to have shoved Vidovic down a flight of stairs in November 2007. Jerry was never disciplined for this because of his high athletic standing in the school. Instead, the school concluded that the occurrence was accidental.
A second incident had a girl throwing a water bottle at Vidovic’s face. She also had her handbag taken and its contents dumped onto a table. She also had her locker door smashed into her hand at least once.
The tenth grade saw a sharp fall in Vidovic’s attendance, and it is known that she periodically missed classes and detentions owing to the increasing bullying she experienced at school.
On the night of October 2, 2008, Vidovic tied a rope around her neck and jumped out of her bedroom window. Her body was discovered by her older sister, Suzana.
For more than half of Vidovic’s life, she was bullied, she said in her suicide note. Although her experiences with school bullying didn’t become disruptive until she became a student at Mentor High School. Her suicide letter highlighted the bullying she experienced at her high school, from being called names like “slut” and “whore” to having her lunch thrown at her and forcing her to dine in the toilet.
Despite her devotion to her family, Vidovic claimed she had never succeeded in making anybody happy. “I can’t believe I’m doing this to myself because I couldn’t wait to grow up, but I’ll never be a better child,” she said in her suicide note.
One week before her death by suicide, Vidovic enrolled in an online school.
The case of Sladjana Vidovic is significant for several reasons. First and foremost, it is a tragedy. A young girl with her whole life ahead of her took her own life because she could not bear the pain of being bullied any longer. This is a stark reminder of the very real consequences of bullying. It is not simply name-calling or meanness; it can drive someone to despair and self-harm.
Secondly, the case highlights the importance of speaking up when you see someone being bullied. Sladjana’s parents repeatedly asked for help from the school, but their requests were ignored. If someone had intervened sooner, perhaps Sladjana would still be alive today.
Finally, the case is a reminder of the need for schools to take bullying seriously, even if it’s on social media, and to have policies in place to protect vulnerable students.
The fact that five students at Mentor High School committed suicide between 2005 and 2008 is a damning indictment of the school’s failure to address the problem. Sladjana’s death was preventable, and her story should serve as a wake-up call to schools across the country.
The implications of this case are far-reaching. In addition to the devastating impact that bullying can have on individual students, this case also highlighted the need for schools to take proactive measures to address bullying and create a safe and supportive environment for all students.
Please share this article to bring awareness to her story. Be kind, and spread awareness and prevention so we can grow stronger as a country, together.