Anti-bullying bill crafted in memory of Mallory Grossman heads to Gov. Murphy's desk
The mother of a 10-year-old autistic girl who was bullied at her Utah school speaks out about her daughter’s suicide. (Dec. 1) AP Domestic
State lawmakers overwhelmingly approved an anti-bullying law this week crafted in memory of Mallory Grossman, the Rockaway Township middle schooler who took her own life in 2017.
The legislation, which still needs Gov. Phil Murphy's approval to become law, would set new reporting requirements for schools investigating complaints and increase penalties for parents who fail to react to court orders in bullying cases.
The state Assembly approved the bipartisan bill (S-1790) by a 66-1 vote, with four abstentions, on Monday, after the state Senate unanimously passed it earlier this legislative session. It was the culmination of more than four years of lobbying by Dianne Grossman, Mallory's mother, who weeks ago went public with fears that the proposal was stalled in Trenton.
Recent hazing allegations involving the Wall Township high school football team helped reenergize the proposal, she said.
The lopsided support showed "that it’s on point," Grossman said in an interview. "People are anxious for change.”
A call to the governor's office wasn't immediately returned.
Grossman said her goal was to increase accountability surrounding investigations of school bullying. The bill establishes penalties for parents and guardians who fail to act. It also allows parents to initiate investigations by filing “tickets,” or trackable records, with school officials. The bill includes deadlines by which officials must respond.
Parents and school officials at local, county and state levels would be notified immediately after a ticket has been submitted, even before a claim is substantiated, Grossman said.
Mallory Grossman was 12 and a student at Copeland Middle School in Rockaway Township when she was targeted for months, on school grounds and online, according to her parents.
Dianne Grossman and her husband, Seth, filed a suit that is still pending against the Rockaway Township district and individual school officials, saying they failed to intercede on their daughter's behalf.
The district said the allegation that it "ignored the Grossman family and failed to address bullying in general is categorically false" at the time.
Grossman established the nonprofit group Mallory’s Army after her daughter’s death to push for stronger anti-bullying laws.
It’s an idea whose time has come, she said Wednesday. She was encouraged by the more than 9,000 "likes" she received in response to a post on the Mallory’s Army Facebook page about the bill's passage.
“People want change. They want anti-hazing and anti-bullying laws and they want them now,” Grossman said.
The legislation was sponsored in the Senate by Joe Pennacchio, a Morris County Republican, and Patrick Diegnan, a Middlesex Democrat. In the Assembly, a companion bill, A-1662, was sponsored by Annette Quijano, D-Union, Angelica Jimenez, D-Hudson, and Joe Danielsen, D-Somerset
Bullying problems can be reported to New Jersey's Hopeline, at 855-654-6735. Specialists are available for confidential telephone counseling and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Gene Myers is a reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.