CLEVELAND -- About 400 Cleveland high school students argued the fictional case of a bullied student in this year's 'Mock Trial' competition at the Justice Center Friday.
It's the 15th year for the competition, and this time students from 11 high schools in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District were taking part.
They argued a case involving a bullied student who brought a weapon to school for self-defense. The theme was developed by Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Lauren C. Moore.
She talked to the students about one of the most important issues in their lives and at their schools.
"It is bullying. It is insensitivity. It is incivility to each other and we've got to stop it," the judge said.
At the mock trial, teams from the various schools debated whether a fictional student who had been bullied should be convicted of bringing a knife to school to defend himself, should the bully attack him again.
Several Cleveland Municipal Court judges judged the competition, as did Jan Mohat, the mother of a 17-year-old Mentor High School student who took his own life in 2007 after being constantly bullied.
"He was so abused that, on the day he killed himself," Jan Mohat told the students, "the bully went up to him and said, 'Eric why don't you go home and shoot yourself, it's not like anyone would care.' And he did. And his sister found him."
The students listened in silence to Mohat's description of the abuse her son endured day after day before he ended his own life.
"People that bully, they need to look inside themselves and see what they are doing is wrong," said John Hay High School sophomore Autumn Jefferson. "That's just a terrible thing to do."
Glenville High School tenth grader Desmond Barrett agreed. He admitted to having been bullied since the fifth grade.
Barrett, who acted as an assistant prosecutor on one of the student teams at the competition, told WKYC, "I'm not going to lie to you. You try to deal with it, you try to shove it off, but you can't. It's a problem and you can face it sometimes, but sometimes you can't."
Barrett thoughtfully reflected on the story of Eric Mohat.
"That's very sad and I don't know how anybody could do through anything like that," he said softly. "And I don't think anybody should ever be bullied at any time in their life. My heart goes out to his famiy."
The students who took part in the mock trial also signed an Anti-Bullying Pledge that encourages them, among other things, to report bullying immediately any time they see it.
Winners of the trial competition for 2011 were members of team Alpha, from the Cleveland School of the Arts.