A year ago this month, Diane Grossman took her daughter Mallory out to dinner at McDonald’s. Over fries and an ice cream cone, she snapped selfies ahead of her older daughter’s vocal recital.
It was a normal night, except for one thing: It was the last photo she would ever take with Mallory.
Nine days later, on June 14, 2017, Mallory took her own life after what her family has called “horrific” bullying at school and online. She was just 12 years old.
“Our last picture. I’ve thought about this day for 11 months. June 5th, the last picture I took of my daughter. Sitting there in that damn Mc Donald’s. Why didn’t I know? Jesus…Why?” Grossman writes on the first anniversary of the photo.
In an emotional post on a Facebook page, she details that trip to McDonald’s, saying Mallory opened up about some of the bullying she was facing. “As we sat sharing ketchup…she mentioned cheer. Signups had already taken place. She didn’t want to. She did want to,” Grossman wrote.
Mallory loved cheerleading and gymnastics, and was remembered in her death as a dedicated and promising athlete…But two of the girls who bullied Mallory at school had signed up for the team, and the thought of bullies in a space she loved was a daunting prospect for her.
In the next few days, Grossman writes, she did all she could to try and separate the girls, going back and forth with the cheerleading coach. But there didn’t appear to be a way to do so.
“I didn’t totally know what was wrong; she was quiet and personal,” she wrote. “I didn’t know about the pictures online. I didn’t know they told her to kill herself.”
“She represented what they couldn’t be, and therefore she had a target on her back. It really was about the humiliation and intimidation,” Grossman said last August. She said the alleged bullying began in October 2016, and included “dirty looks, harassment, name calling, exclusion.”
“Her classmates used this cellphone to drive her into this tragedy,” said attorney Bruce Nagel during a press conference.
“For months, there were texts, Snapchat, Instagram. For months she was told, she’s a loser, she has no friends, and finally, she was even told, ‘Why don’t you kill yourself?'”
Diane and her husband Seth Grossman announced their intent to sue the Rockaway Township School District, saying they knew about the bullying and did nothing to stop it. The school had denied any wrongdoings, saying they took the appropriate steps to address concerns.
In the year since Mallory’s death, the Grossmans have begun to fight back against the cultural issue of bullying. They have started Mallory’s Army, a non-profit foundation dedicated to ending cyberbullying.