Suing the School and Parents of a Cyber Bulling Case: A Step Forward

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According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual rate of suicides from ten to fourteen year olds has doubled. One of the main reasons for this is Cyber bullying. Cyber bullying happens when, “someone hurts, harasses and threatens another over digital devices and related platforms, such as social media, blogs and text messages.” Children and adults alike have become more susceptible to bullying through the Internet. We often say the freedom of speech gives us the free will to say what we want, even if it means harming other people. How far can one go before harming another individual with words? Should they be punished for this?
Mallory Grossman was a twelve-year-old girl who lived in New Jersey and went to Copeland Middle School. She was known as the girl everyone wanted his or her daughter to be like. Mallory loved to give back to the community. She raised money and donated most of it to a charity for cancer patients. Beginning of October of 2016, Mallory was being bullied. According to Inside Edition, Mallory would come home to “tell her mother about the dirty looks, harassment, name-calling, silent treatment and exclusion she suffered at school.” As a result of the bullying Mallory began to fake stomachaches and headaches to get out of school. Her grades began to drop. The bullying increased over 6 months, and escalated onto cyber bullying through Snapchat, Facebook, and text messages.

 

Some of the messages being sent to Mallory included, “You’re a loser. You have no friends. And finally: Why don’t you kill yourself?” Mallory did just that. On June 14, 2017, Mallory committed suicide in her home. Mallory’s parents, Dianne and Seth Grossman are planning to sue the school district for negligence. I believe the parents of the bullies and the school district should be sued.

As Parents, Dianne and Seth have made many attempts to get the school to intervene. Dianne had made many pleas in hopes the bullying would stop. Her parents began to notify the school of the bullying in October when Mallory started to receive the dirty looks and name-calling. They repeatedly went back to the school to report the bullying their daughter was facing. Grossman talked about the school’s attempt to help them in their situation. “There was a pattern, a regular history of the school district dismissing my concerns.” After repeatedly going to the school for help and being dismissed it comes to a point where you go directly to the source. So, Grossman’s went directly to the parents of the bullies.

Dianne saw how miserable her daughter was at school and at home when receiving the messages. Dianne and Seth even contacted the parents of the bullies and were dismissed. The other parents brushed off the text messages as a joke and said it would pass. Minutes after the parents met a series of text messages came to Mallory. She killed herself later that day. Patch states, “A school can put any policy it wants on the books but unless parents are held accountable-anyone knows to kill poison ivy, you need to eradicate the roots” How can you send a text saying, “why don’t you kill yourself” is a joke? If someone said that to my child I would report it to the school and want to talk to the parents about their child’s involvement in bullying.

Inside Edition tries to think as a twelve-year-old would. “To a child who is twelve constant dirty looks, doesn’t change the makeup of who you are.” A twelve-year-old is still developing mentally. Middle school is a tough time in addition to dealing with bullies that harass you. It makes the work and coping with middle school that much harder. The Daily Record describes how young people can become overwhelmed easily because they haven’t developed the coping skills necessary for adulthood yet. “Something an adult easily dismisses because of a lifetime of experience can be hard for a middle schooler to shrug off.” Thus the name-calling and exclusion in Mallory’s case can be something that an adult can shrug off, but to a child seems like the end of the world.

Copeland Middle School gave itself an “A” in assessing bullying within the school. The school however, has not filed a single report of Mallory’s bullying incidents. New Jersey’s State law states, “an investigation must take place within ten days of the incident. Schools must also have a plan that outlines how they will address bullying and all teachers and administrators must be trained to identify and respond to bullying.” If your child is injured from a fellow student, the parents of the responsible child may also be responsible. How could a school who is supposed to have received an “A” in dealing with bullying not make a single report of someone who came to them about a bully multiple times? If this is considered a grade “A” school for bullying do we want to see what a “B” or “C” grade looks like? Gloria Fisher replied to Dianne Grossman’s Facebook post about the press conference. She asked her granddaughter, a thirteen-year-old, about bullying in her school in South Jersey. Her granddaughter said, “It [bullying] goes on all the time, and if reported to teachers we are told, ‘we can’t do anything about it’”. School is supposed to be a safe place not somewhere you dread to go to school every day.

Parents are supposed to know their child’s behavior in school and at home, including what the child is doing on social media or texting. Until the age of eighteen, a legal guardian or parent is held responsible of their child. Mallory’s bullies were under the age of eighteen thus making their parents accountable for their child’s actions. As of now Cyber bullying is not considered a crime, however in serious cases like suicide criminal charges can be made. In New Jersey, cyber bullying is considered a fourth degree criminal offense. It can have a penalty of eighteen months in jail or up to $10,000.

In refutation, the school argues they have no control over what happens outside of the school. Some argue this had nothing to do with the school. It had to do with the bullies and Mallory. “The school did not hand that girl a phone and Instagram account.” It is true the school did not hand Mallory a phone or give her the Instagram account, but the bullying events began at the school. Some pictures of Mallory were taken at the school without her approval. The district’s main points were the importance of the quality of education in the schools. However, bullying can hurt a person’s ability to get their education. “1 in 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying.” The district comments on the press conference about the roles and responsibilities of staff and administration. The administration and staff “have always been and will continue to be committed to protecting rights and safety for all our students”. It is imperative that they take a stand to show they are doing just that, which they did not do for Mallory.

Others in the New Jersey County argue against Seth and Dianne Grossman asking, why they didn’t take their daughter out of the school and transfer her to another school sooner. If the problem was with the three or four bullies at that one particular school, it is best to remove yourself from the situation. The Grossman’s were in fact in the process of removing Mallory from Copeland in Spring of 2017. They had plans to transfer her to a private school, but plans fell though when Mallory took her life before the transfer could be completed.

Another argument others make against Dianne and Seth Grossman is the fact they did not take the phone away from their daughter. They knew it was being used to bully Mallory. “Getting her a new number, restricting what programs she (12-year-old) could have on it and make sure that anyone who she gives the number or her ID’s to is approved by them.” Changing a number doesn’t stop the bullying from happening. It may suppress it for a little while until the bullies find some other way to get to her. Mallory was still getting bullied at school with the name-calling and exclusion.

Both parents of the bullies and the victim should have been checking the phones of their child to see what they were texting or posting about. Parents need to step up and take the initiative to make sure their child is neither a bully nor the victim of bullying. One way we can do this is by encouraging open family discussions about bullying, and making it known your child can come talk to you. Many parents have started to take all electronics away from their child at a certain time in the night. This way they are able to better monitor what they do on their device. This could be a good start for other parents to be able to see what their child is saying to others or receiving through social media and text.

How many hoops does one have to go through just to avoid getting bullied? Mallory’s case was a terrible situation of what bullying can do to someone. Cyber bullying has become a prevalent problem across the nation. Those who use electronics daily are more likely to be bullied than those who have face-to-face interactions. Is it time we start putting down our phones and have more face-to-face interactions to keep bullying rates down?

We should inform students more about bullying. Most think they can handle it and if they speak up it will get worse. Schools need to make it known to their students that their teachers and counselors are safe people to talk to and they are there to help them. They should encourage students to come forward for the sake of their health and bettering their education. Parents and teachers alike should also be more attuned to the warning signs of suicide. Parents need to be more aware of bullying and what is going on in their youth’s life. Parents of adolescent bullies should also have consequences. They are the legal guardian and are in charge of all actions their child makes. This case could make a stand to let all parents know the effects of bullying and better ways to monitor it in their home.

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One Comment to “Suing the School and Parents of a Cyber Bulling Case: A Step Forward”

  1. Gosh, this story hits home with me. When I was in high school, there was a boy who committed suicide because he was gay. He wasn’t close with his family, but he was getting bullied through social media from fellow classmates of his. We were all kind of in shock of what happened. I can totally relate to this article and issue. I do think there needs to be something implemented in schools to stop bullying. Bullying really starts at school because this is where peer-pressure arrives and this is where kids learn how to interact with other kids. With a kid in high school, hormones are raging and it’s all about making yourself look really cool. This obviously does not need to involve putting another kid down or bullying other people. Schools should be held accountable as, many times, schools boast about how well their anti-bullying programs. If it’s so perfect, then why did it fail?

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