It was June 2017 when, after months of bullying, 12-year-old Mallory Grossman took her own life.
“It’s a group of girls that Mallory wanted to be friends with who decided to take advantage of her eagerness to be friends and they kind of picked on her. They teased her. They isolated here. They secluded her. And then of course it elevated to tapping her chair at school, and calling her names and making fun of her. And of course they took it to the internet and they went on Snapchat and took pictures of her without her permission,” Dianne said.
Mallory’s parents, Seth and Dianne Grossman, have been working with state Sen. Joe Pennachio to tighten New Jersey’s 2011 anti-bullying law, one of the strictest in the country.
“It was open ended. Open ended things disappear,” Pennachio said.
Under the current law bullying has to be reported in writing to the school principal within two days. The new bill, called Mallory’s Law, would require the principal to immediately contact the superintendent of schools, the executive county superintendent, and to the parents or guardians of the students involved.
The current law allows the court to require parents or guardians of minors found guilty of cyber harassment to attend an anti-bullying class. Mallory’s Law increases the fine if the parents fail to comply with that order. It also places a copy of the investigation in the student’s records.
“They’re not going to stop and think ‘I better not bully this kid because it’s going to end up on my permanent record,'” said Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center.
Patchin says what deters kids are informal punishments.
“If it’s made clear to them by their parents that something is inappropriate and there will be consequences at home, or if it’s made clear to them that there would be consequences at school for misbehavior at school, they’re less likely to participate,” said Patchin.
When Mallory’s parents found out about the severity of the bullying they contacted one of the parents.
“She asked me why couldn’t my daughter take a joke, and I said, ‘It’s not funny. There’s nothing funny about this.’ Then when I realized that the parents were not going to do anything about it, the minute that I realized that the parents thought it was funny, that’s when I took the images to the school and met with them the following day,” said Diane.
The same day their daughter took her own life.
“The community’s got to be involved, the school’s got to know what’s going on, the parents have to be notified\ and the kids have to be involved. In think with all four of those we actually have a chance of making a difference,” Diane said.
Pennachio says Mallory’s Law does just that — it adds transparency, accountability and engages parents.
The Grossman’s hope they will be standing by the governor soon to sign it into law.
“I would say to Gov. Murphy, I would say sign it and thank you. Thank you for not letting my daughter die in vain. This isn’t about my daughter Mallory. This is about all of the Mallorys. This is about making sure that the children who don’t feel safe at school, there are systems in place to keep them safe,” Diane said.
Mallory’s Law now heads to the Senate Education Committee.