WAYNE, NJ – Just before the holiday break, Dianne Grossman of Mallory’s Army spoke to a large crowd of concerned parents at the Wayne Valley High School Media Center about her experience with her own daughter’s suicide in order to educate and empower parents to identify and stop bullying.
On June 14, 2017, twelve-year-old Mallory Grossman of Rockaway committed suicide. Her mother believes that this was in response to nine months of relentless and horrific bullying.
Following a painful grieving process and battling her own depression Dianne, with the aid of friends created Mallory’s Army, a group of people determined to fight bullying in our schools.
“Mallory does not represent a child that is awkward or different. She represents all of our children,” said Dianne during the emotional presentation.
A picture of the 12-year-old Mallory was displayed on a tripod and as Dianne told the story of a bright, personal, upbeat girl who began to be bullied in sixth grade. With each example of the kids in school picking on Mallory, Dianne drew a black mark across Mallory’s picture. Over the course of the presentation, black mark’s piled up on Mallory.
“No matter how many times someone said: ‘I’m sorry,’ the black marks stay,” said Dianne.
Across the room, people wiped away tears as Dianne showed a video of a seemingly happy Mallory in her room talking, playing, laughing. The video was shot days before the young girl took her own life.
Dianne taught the group of parents who attended about relational bullying, which is when children who may seem like friends to others, who hang out together at times, bully by excluding someone from group events, humiliation or threatening to withdraw friendship.
“Gateway behaviors are small things that can often signal the beginning patterns of bullying,” she said. Eye-rolling, back-turning, laughing cruelly or encouraging others to laugh at someone are examples of gateway behaviors.
“Imagine how powerful a school can be,” said Dianne, “if everyone who comes through the doors understood relational bullying, gateway behaviors and understands what real bullying looks like and how invisible it can be.” This was a passionate plea to fund training for teachers, aids and volunteers on identifying and stopping bullying behaviors.
Suggestions were given for parents and fellow students on how to report bullying behavior including apps like “Stop It” that allow the reports to be anonymous.
Across the hall from the Media Center in one of the classrooms another presentation was being given by Jennifer Stillwell, a volunteer member of Mallory’s Army and Dianne’s assistant. This presentation was being given to the children of the parents in attendance. It was the same information but presented for a youthful perspective.
“My goal is to create empathetic upstanders who are willing to stand-up to bullying and to make the classrooms and hallways of our world safer,” said Stillwell. “Empathy is our main theme, but later in the class, we are going to teach how to be a better citizen online. It’s all about respect, empathy and being the kind of person you would want to meet.”
Between the two presentations, Dianne is hoping to help prevent what happened to her daughter from happening to any other child. It will take an army to accomplish through each of these presentations, she is drawing more people into her army to fight the scourge of bullying.
To learn more about Mallory and Mallory’s Army, visit: https://mallorysarmy.org/
The event paid for by a Stigma-Free Grant applied for by Robbin Gulino of the Wayne Alliance and was awarded through the Freeholders and Passaic County Division of Mental Health And Addiction Services.