Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-Essex, Morris, Passaic) and Senator Patrick Diegnan’s (D-Middlesex) legislation to standardize and strengthen New Jersey’s anti-bullying laws was advanced by the Senate Education Committee. “Mallory’s Law” is named in honor of Mallory Rose Grossman, a 12-year-old Rockaway student who committed suicide after being the victim of relentless bullying.
Dianne Grossman, the mother of Mallory Grossman, and Sen. Joe Pennacchio testify in support of “Mallory’s Law.” (SenateNJ.com)
“School bullying is killing our children,” said Pennacchio. “I cannot fathom the pain Mallory’s family suffers through every day. Bullying is preventable and addressable, so we shouldn’t have to just tolerate or accept it. ‘Mallory’s Law’ is recognition that stopping the culture of bullying requires a multi-faceted approach that involves students, parents, teachers, and school administrators.”
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 14, a figure partially attributable to cyberbullying,” said Diegnan. “Although New Jersey’s ‘Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights’ is considered to be one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the country, students have continued to be victimized, especially on social media, to the point of suicide. Hopefully, this bill will equip schools with the tools to combat this epidemic.”
“I am grateful to Chairwoman Ruiz and the members of the committee for hearing us today,” said Dianne Grossman, the mother of Mallory Grossman. “I am grateful for Senator Pennacchio and Senator Diegnan for standing with us. We look forward to President Sweeney’s support in advancing this important matter. This bill supports families, school systems and anyone who may be impacted by bullying.”
Mallory Grossman took her own life on June 14, 2017 after being bullied.
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.
The bipartisan legislation named in tribute to Mallory was introduced in February 2019.
Mallory’s Law, S-3433, would incorporate a comprehensive approach to prevent and respond to bullying in New Jersey schools by increasing the repercussions and ensuring school officials take preventative actions before tragedy strikes.
“‘Mallory’s Law’ combats the harassment and intimidation that can lead children to take their own lives,” Pennacchio said. “This bill would also require school and county officials to address bullying, before it gets out of control. Increasing transparency and accountability, while systematizing this process, will help us put an end to this epidemic.”
Pennacchio’s legislation would reinforce and intensify the state’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.” The bill 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 a third bullying offense to the executive county superintendent and the parents of students involved in the incident.
Many experts have noted that the growing trend of cyber harassment through cell phones, computers, and interactive video games leaves children today with little escape from bullying, even when in their own homes. Oftentimes, parents don’t realize it’s happening right in front of them.
“We have to do more to protect our kids when bullies can harass them at any time of the day via apps Snapchat and Instagram, or even when they’re playing video games like Fortnite,” 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.
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.
Victims of bullying are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
“Mallory’s family and I worked closely together to create this legislation,” Senator Pennacchio commented. “The State of New Jersey must take every appropriate action to reduce bullying by increasing the strength and transparency of the reporting process. Enacting ‘Mallory’s Law’ will bring us one step closer to ensuring bullying will not be tolerated in any school in the Garden State.”
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