MORRIS COUNTY — Following the tragic death of Mallory Rose Grossman, a 12-year-old Rockaway student who committed suicide after suffering from bullying, Senators Joe Pennacchio and Patrick Diegnan have introduced bipartisan legislation to standardize and strengthen New Jersey’s anti-bullying laws.
Their legislation, “Mallory’s Law,” represents a comprehensive approach to prevent and respond to bullying in New Jersey, by increasing the repercussions and ensuring school officials take preventative actions before tragedy strikes.
“My heart breaks for Mallory’s family,” Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26) said. “We must take action to ensure no one ever goes through this again. ‘Mallory’s Law’ combats the harassment and intimidation that can lead children to take their own lives. This bill would also require school and county officials to address bullying, before it gets out of control. Increasing transparency and accountability, while standardizing this process, will help us end the culture of bullying.”
Mallory Grossman was bullied on school grounds and harassed via Snapchat and text messages relentlessly, before she took her own life on June 14, 2017.
Mallory’s parents have turned their grief into action, by starting “Mallory’s Army,” a national movement to save other children from the devastating effects of bullying. On December 18, 2017 Senator Pennacchio and his colleagues in the State Senate honored Mallory’s Army for their efforts.
“Mallory Rose Grossman’s story will help others,” said Seth and Dianne Grossman, the parents of Mallory Grossman. “Her journey has been the inspiration for many in New Jersey to bring change to the way bullying issues are handled in and out of school. We are grateful to Senator Joe Pennacchio, Senator Patrick Diegnan and all of the administrative teams for working with us on ‘Mallory’s Law.’ It’s a law we believe is in the best interest of all of our children, schools and families.”
“Many people say that bullying doesn’t happen or that kids just need toughen up. I can tell you that bullying is still happening in our schools, and it is causing an enormous amount of psychological distress to our students,” Senator Patrick Diegnan (D-18) said. “Our society struggles with handling mental health issues. We especially have to fix these issues when they affect young students in our schools. Unfortunately, we are too late for Mallory, a student who committed suicide after intense bullying. It shouldn’t take the loss of life for us to act.”
Pennacchio and Diegnan’s legislation would reinforce and intensify the state’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.” The legislation was signed into law after cyber harassment led to the tragic suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi in 2010.
Although New Jersey’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” is considered to be one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the nation, students have continued to be victimized to the point of suicide.
“Mallory’s Law” would expand the school bullying reporting and notification process. This bill would forward all accounts of bullying to the executive county superintendent and the parents of students involved in the incident.
Cyber harassment has further-intensified bullying, with children now being badgered at home through their cell phones and computers.
Recently, Paterson fifth grader Samara Moreno committed suicide after being bullied at school. She was 11-years-old.
“The current anti-bullying laws on the book must do more to protect our kids in an era where people are instantly accessible via social media platforms like Snapchat and iMessage,” Senator Pennacchio added. “’Mallory’s Law’ will ensure the bully, parents, and the school are made well aware of any incidents, and that proper disciplinary actions are taken before we lose more young lives.”
“Mallory’s Law” would ensure that parents are more involved when their child is accused of bullying. The bill would also direct New Jersey school districts to provide means for parents to complete an online form to report any occurrences of bullying.
The legislation would also require that each school district’s anti-bullying policy must include specific penalties for bullying. Any proven act of bullying would lead to the incident being added to the student’s permanent record.
Under the bill, bullies found culpable of harassment more than three times must attend anti-bullying training with their parents. Law enforcement will also be notified to see if the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice has been violated.
Victims of bullying are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
Studies have also shown that children who are bullied by their parents, or witness their parents engaging in bullying perpetration are more likely to be bullies themselves, which demonstrates the need for this legislative effort to ensure parents are held accountable if their child bullies a fellow student.
A civil liability may be imposed on the parent of a bully who demonstrates blatant disregard of supervising their child, if their child has been judged to be delinquent of harassment or cyber harassment.
“The State of New Jersey must take every appropriate action to reduce bullying by increasing the strength and transparency of the reporting process,” Senator Pennacchio added. “Enacting ‘Mallory’s Law’ will bring us one step closer to ensuring bullying will not be tolerated in any school in the Garden State.”