Kane In Your Corner: Mom of suicide victim fears Assembly won't act on Mallory's Law

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The mother of a New Jersey middle school student who was driven to suicide by bullying at school tells Kane In Your Corner she is concerned New Jersey lawmakers could miss an opportunity to protect victims in the future.

Mallory Grossman was just 12 years old when she took her own life, the result of bullying by classmates at Copeland Middle School in Rockaway Township. Her story was part of a Kane In Your Corner investigation into school bullying and her case prompted state lawmakers to consider a law that could hold the parents of bullies legally responsible.

But after passing the Senate unanimously, the legislation, known as Mallory’s Law, has been stuck in the Assembly. If the bill doesn’t pass before the legislative session ends next month, lawmakers would have to start the process over from the beginning.

“In the last month, New Jersey lost four students to suicide,” says Dianne Grossman, Mallory’s mother, who now runs an anti-bullying organization called Mallory’s Army. “How many lives have to get lost? How many students have to go through this entire school year without any form of disciplinary action or any transparency?”

Grossman is now taking the fight to social media, tasking supporters to lobby their lawmakers to pass the legislation. She says there is agreement on most of the law, which could hold parents legally responsible if their children bully classmates, and would require bullying reports to be submitted on forms with built-in tracking numbers. But she says the New Jersey School Principals and Administrators Association is pushing back against a requirement in the legislation that would require principals to immediately submit copies of those forms to the parents of both the alleged bully and victim.

“We agree that parents should be informed about HIB incidents and the status of an investigation regarding their own child,” says Daniel Higgins, spokesman for the NJSPA. “However, we also believe that providing parents with specific information about other children, particularly at the beginning of an investigation, would be a violation of those students’ rights under state and federal law, and may also serve to interfere with the investigation itself.”     

Grossman, however, contends immediate parental notification is crucial to Mallory’s Law. “It’s very easy for (parents of bullies) to be held responsible, but if you were never notified in a certain manner, if you didn’t find until six months later or a year later that your kid was involved, then why should you be responsible?” she says. “I think parents need to be involved if we want them to be held liable.”

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R – Montville) remains optimistic Mallory’s Law will pass.

“There’s always pushback when you’re asking people to do things differently,” Pennacchio says. “But if you keep doing things over and over again and keep getting the same result, and you want a different result, then things have to change.”

 

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