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Parents of student who died by suicide hope lawsuit helps raise awareness about bullying in NJ schools

The Rockaway Township School District settled with the family of Mallory Grossman for $9.1 million.

Matt Trapani and Kurt Siegelin

Aug 1, 2023, 3:06 AM

Updated 323 days ago

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The parents of a New Jersey middle school student who sued the Rockway School District say that they hope that the settlement they received acts as a wake-up call to other schools to do more to prevent bullying.
The Rockaway Township School District settled with the family of Mallory Grossman for $9.1 million. The family sued the district after the 12-year-old took her own life in 2017 after they say she was relentlessly bullied. The family says that the school was made aware of the bullying and didn’t do enough to stop it.
“This case and this settlement – the size of the settlement – should send a wakeup call and a signal - and a strong signal - to every school in the country that bullying is a major, major problem and our children need to be protected,” says the Grossman family attorney.
Mallory’s mother Dianne Grossman says that the bullying started when her daughter was in fifth grade.
“We started seeing evidence of it towards the end of fifth grade. So, in September of sixth grade, which would have been September of 2016, we started reporting in writing to the guidance counselors, her teachers, so we started really early on pointing out some of the things that would be defined as bullying,” says Diane Grossman.
She says that they just wanted the teasing and harassment to stop.
“Their solution was to isolate Mallory more and then put her in with the guidance counselor. I don’t know any sixth grader that wants to sit with their guidance counselor to have lunch – that wasn’t a solution,” Diane Grossman says.
She says now that the case is settled, she hopes to raise awareness about bullying.
“I think that it’s time for the schools to understand that we have an epidemic on our hands. I think it’s time for the schools to start to enforce their policies and if they don’t have policies, now’s the time to write those policies This is a wake-up call for all school systems,” she says.
She also says that schools should do more about cellphone and social media use.
“I think that we have an unhealthy relationship with technology, and I think that the schools, by allowing the cellphones at school during the day, whether they allow access to social media or not, you know, a video can be taken and shared hundreds of millions of time, whereas a story of a kid falling or getting hurt can only be told, and I think the influencers that the kids follow encourage this type of behavior,” Diane Grossman says.
Diane Grossman also references New Jersey's harassment, intimidation and bullying law. It specifically outlaws the behavior that her daughter was subjected to, but she says it's not enough.
“There needs to be consequences in place. Children need to predict the consequences of their behavior. And I think our lawsuit sets the stage for that,” she says.
Diane Grossman says she would also like to see schools create a parents' bill of rights with ways parents can communicate behavior they consider troubling and know how to report it.


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