United together in the fight against bullying...Don't just teach kindness...Be kindness. ~ Mallory's Army Foundation
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Dianne Grossman spoke to nearly 100 parents and educators that filled the conference room at New Jersey Sharing Network last Thursday to educate them and take a stand on the fight against bullying.
Grossman is the mother of 12 year old Mallory who died by suicide on June 14, 2017 after "horrific bullying." -- A group of girls had tormented Mallory, teased her, gave her dirty looks and snubbed her, shooed her away from their lunch table -- bullied her. Imagine a child coming home to tell her parent, "I'm the most hated kid in school." -- Being told by a classmate, "Why don't you kill yourself?"
Mallory was in sixth grade and was an avid gymnast, cheerleader, and lover of all things outdoor. Her mother said she lived a "bracelet kind of life." -- "She was a lover of arts and would make jewelry so she could raise money for her favorite charity, Camp Good Days," according to the Mallory's Army website.
Since her death, Grossman has formed the Mallory's Army Foundation to help "Blue Out Bullying" by engaging communities to join in the fight against bullying. Suicide is the number one cause of death for people age 10 to 24 -- and is an epidemic -- it must be stopped.
Grossman has been critical of the way that schools handle bullying and passed out a copy of HIB (bullying standards) for parents to educate themselves.
"They (school administrators) should not say, 'We’ll investigate.' It signals 'I don’t believe you'," Grossman said, adding that the investigator will ask friends and the bullies themselves, only making the situation worse.
"Parents, when they tell you that little Johnny is part of the problem, listen. Get him the help he needs. It’s why he’s the bully."
Grossman explained how she is able to do what she does only 15 months after her daughter's death. As a child whose family went through a divorce, she was the new kid in school in a small town in South Carolina. Teachers felt really sorry for her and put up posters saying that "Diane Tully, the poorest kid at school, needs your help."
"They have good intentions, but just because you didn’t mean to hurt someone doesn’t mean you didn’t," she said. "Your perception is your truth."
"Children just want to fit in. Nothing has changed. That explains the obsession with brands and social media," explained Grossman, whose presentation was recorded and will be used in an upcoming documentary film. "Every single one of your children has a fuse, and you don’t know how long or short it is. Your kids are lacking resilient behavior... don't try to save them from everything. Be a parent and not a friend."
Grossman said, "Their world is virtual. We don't understand it, but it is," Grossman said. "They must slowly learn to talk to each other."
Part of the presentation focused on the dangers of social media.
"Snapchat is a billion dollar industry. They sell information about people. They are making money off the backs of the children," Grossman said. "There's an app called After School that enables them to talk to strangers for free. There are people who are soliciting your children. Saharah enables you to say something bad about someone online without having to identify yourself."
According to Grossman, the number one reason bullying begins is sensitivity. Detailing what happened to her daughter, she explained that Mallory thought she had been included into a "squad" of girls that planned to wear overalls and pink shirts to school the next day. It turned out that she was the only one dressed that way.
"Relational bullying is the most dangerous kind of bullying -- especially when there’s a ring leader.," Grossman said. "Mallory believed she had been accepted. I knew she was struggling to fit in. She gets up, goes to school and none of them wore pink t-shirts. She was singled out, humiliated and bullied into believing she was part of a squad. She was embarrassed all day long."
"The clothes are still in the corner of my room. Do I give them to Goodwill? Do I give them to her friend," Grossman asked as her voice began to crack."Kids have fear and anxiety and anger that translates to rage, which translates into mass shootings."
"(For Mallory)There was no big event, but tiny little black marks on her soul. One day she received a message to kill herself," Grossman explained, soliciting gasps from the audience. "She had friends. She had a good life, but her perception was she was the most hated girl at school. Her canvas had more black marks than color."
Grossman recounted how when she confronted a parent one of the bullies, the girl's mother asked, "Can’t your daughter take a joke?"
"No. It’s not funny. There was nothing funny about it. I had (Mallory)12 years and it took her four minutes to die."
"What did Mallory leave me bedsides a broken heart? She leaves me the ability to help you save your children," Grossman concluded. "Every child knows what it’s like to be like Mallory. Words matter. Sticks and stones hurt. We live in a different world."
Her advice for parents is to explain to their children that "someone is always going to be faster, slower, or better than them. Learn how to respond. Stop solving your children’s problems. It doesn’t work that way."
Rebecca Coniglio, a New Providence parent, helped to bring Dianne Grossman and Mallory's Army Foundation to New Providence and said, that since the presentation, many people have reached out with concern and motivation about what to do next..."now that we have heard Dianne Grossman's story...the conversation has been started! --- We will be meeting to continue the conversation. Thank you for inspiring us."