On Tuesday, June 19, the family of a 12-year-old girl who was reportedly bullied at a New Jersey middle school and committed suicide because of it filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the principal and several other school officials, Rockaway Township, and its board of education, reported the New York Post.
Mallory Grossman repeatedly told her parents, Dianne and Seth Grossman, about the bullying — which occurred both online (via texts and Snapchats) and in person — from her classmates throughout the 2016-2017 school year.
The pre-teen’s mom said she made “numerous” complaints to administrators at Copeland Middle School but they did nothing that actually helped her child. She said one time they made Mallory and her bullies hug it out instead of disciplining them, and another time suggested she eat lunch in the guidance counselor’s office to avoid other students.
Then Mallory killed herself.
She took her own life on June 14, 2017, at the end of sixth grade, inside her family home.
Dianne told the Post she filed the lawsuit because of “everybody’s Mallory,” other children that may be facing the same kind of tormenting.
“We are hopeful that the filing of this lawsuit will bring national awareness to the epidemic of cyberbullying, and that we do not have to attend any more funerals of students who have been the victims,” said Bruce Nagel, the family’s lawyer.
According to the lawsuit, Dianne took her daughter to talk to Principal Alfonso Gonnella in yet another attempt to get help. The meeting reportedly lasted three hours. His way of “solving” the issue was to have his student write her initials and the date on a poker chip he gave to her. He then asked if she was “all in.” The suit says Mallory was “humiliated” by this. This all happened on the last day of her life.
“[Gonnella] lacked any suggestions to punish the offenders, but instead, placed the bulk of the responsibility on Mallory to rectify the situation,” it is stated in the suit.
To the Post, Dianne said, “[Gonnella] has blood on his hands.”
In the filed court papers, the Grossmans stated that a student with the initials A.B. took a photo of Mallory when she was by herself and then texted it to her along with the comment “You have no friends,” and another student sent a similar picture out to classmates via Snapchat with the captions “U have no friends” and “Poor Mal.” One schoolmate even allegedly asked her when she was going to kill herself, in front of others, mere weeks before her suicide.
Last October, during National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, Dianne and Seth appeared on Megyn Kelly Today to share their story. During the interview, the grieving mother said that the girls who bullied Mallory need “to be held accountable and understand the magnitude of what they did,” reported NJ.com.
“I think those girls should spend the rest of their lives [doing] community service to really understand, and they should dedicate their lives just as we’ve done,” she added.
The parents also said that there weren’t any warning signs that Mallory was going to take her own life even though they knew about the stress the bullying had on her. The cheerleader and gymnast did attempt to avoid going to school by claiming she had headaches and stomachaches though.
The Grossmans set up Mallory’s Army to fight bullying and teach kindness.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit Suicide.org or Befrienders Worldwide for international resources you can use to find help.