NJ school district reaches $9.1M settlement with family of teen who died by suicide

Tuesday, August 1, 2023
NJ school district, family reach settlement after teen dies by suicide
Rockaway Township School District has agreed to pay $9.1 million to the family of Mallory Grossman who died by suicide after being bullied.

ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, New Jersey -- A New Jersey school district has agreed to pay $9.1 million to the family of a girl who died by suicide after she was bullied at school, the family's attorney said.

The settlement comes after Diane and Seth Grossman sued Rockaway Township School District in 2018, claiming that, despite repeated complaints, Copeland Middle School administrators did not do enough to prevent their daughter's death.

Twelve-year-old Mallory Grossman took her own life in June 2017 after being bullied in school and cyberbullied by classmates throughout the school year through text and Snapchat messages, according to the lawsuit filed in New Jersey superior court.

CNN has reached out to the Rockaway Township School District for comment on the settlement, which was reached in court Wednesday.

It is the largest bullying settlement in New Jersey history, an attorney for the Grossman family, Bruce Nagel, told CNN.

"This settlement should send a strong signal to schools around the country that bullying is an epidemic and schools have a responsibility to protect our children," Nagel said.

"Seth and I are satisfied with the settlement, ready to put this part behind us and move forward, continuing to lend our voice to the epidemic that is stealing our children's future," Dianne Grossman said in a statement. "We hope all schools, (Boards of Education) and administrators will take a look at their current policies & make the necessary changes to protect all students, as it pertains to bullying and cyberbullying."

The issue of bullying in schools has taken on a new dynamic since the rise of social media, experts say.

"Before social media, there might have been an unpleasant interaction at school and that's mostly where it stops," Nikki Pagano, a licensed clinical social worker in Charlotte, North Carolina, previously told CNN. "Now, that interaction carries over to home and is inescapable. Instead of one person making you feel bad, there may be something posted online and peers may be seeing or even 'liking' this post."

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has taken measures to address bullying concerns in schools. In January 2022 he signed a measure, dubbed "Mallory's Law," requiring school districts to provide specific consequences in anti-bullying policies for students harassing or bullying a classmate, according to the New Jersey state legislature.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 (or 800-273-8255) to connect with a trained counselor or visit the NSPL site.

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