The New Jersey state Senate has unanimously passed Mallory’s Law, named for Mallory Grossman, the Rockaway Township 12-year-old who died by suicide two years ago after she was allegedly bullied by classmates.
The bill, which now heads to the Assembly Education Committee for approval, calls for county officials to oversee local school districts in cases of bullying and bring school resource officers into the loop when parents suspect their child is being bullied, said Mallory’s mother, Dianne Grossman.
Mallory’s Law, S-3433, sponsored by Sens. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, and Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, will empower parents in their fight against bullies as it ramps up culpability, Grossman said.
Grossman spent the last two years building an “army” in her daughter’s name to strengthen bullying laws. Mallory’s Army was created to help other parents protect their children against bullying because she said she was powerless to help her daughter.
“Everything that is in Mallory’s Law is a result of the things that Mallory experienced,” Grossman said.
The bill calls for parents to start the investigation process by filing a “ticket,” or a trackable record, about an incident, which immediately notifies all parents involved and local, county and state educators and administrators, even before a bullying claim is substantiated, Grossman said.
Under Mallory’s Law, the local schools superintendent would also be empowered to levy fines against parents once bullying is proved.
These are the elements that need to be in place for parents who are not getting help locally, Grossman said. Her daughter, she said, was bullied “relentlessly” on school grounds and through social media posts for months before she died June 14, 2017.
Grossman and her husband, Seth, filed a suit against the Rockaway Township school district and school officials citing failure to act on Mallory’s behalf. The district said the allegation that it “ignored the Grossman family and failed to address bullying in general is categorically false.”
There needs to be a fix for the shortcomings of self-reporting, Grossman said. Current state anti-bullying laws require school officials to investigate within a day of a bullying claim and file a report on the incident within 10 days. Local school boards are tasked with overseeing the superintendents’ rulings in each case, voting to determine whether bullying is confirmed or unconfirmed. Bullying incidents are then sent to the state as tallies void of details about the incidents.
Grossman said there is a lack of supervision due to vague state policy when it comes to HIB (harassment, intimidation and bullying) reports.
The suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds doubled between 2007 and 2014, for the first time surpassing the death rate in that age group from car crashes. In 2014, 425 middle-schoolers nationwide died by suicide, including five in New Jersey.
“We look forward to moving Mallory’s Law through the Assembly, making it law. This bill supports parents, kids and schools to help combat bullying online and offline,” Grossman said.