NJ updates anti-bullying bill of rights, strengthens laws

TRENTON, New Jersey (WABC) -- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Tuesday signed a law strengthening the state's anti-bullying bill of rights.

Mallory Rose Grossman was just 12 years old in 2017 when online bullying led to her suicide.

"No one had a better relationship with their child than myself," mom Dianne Grossman said. "Mallory and I were very close. I think when things like this happen, children are embarrassed, and they're afraid to come to their parents to discuss it."

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Mallory's death pushed her parents onto a path to strengthen New Jersey's anti-bullying laws, and Dianne says the update signed Tuesday was sorely needed.

"This law was written before TikTok and Snapchat became so aggressive," she said. "It also was before we started to use things like virtual learning, where we were encouraging children to spend too much time online."

The new bill of right requires school districts to specifically define the consequences for acts of bullying another student.

Districts must also keep a record of and report incidents, and it increases penalties against parents or guardians from a range of $25-$100 to $100-$500.

The Grossmans and other advocates started Mallory's Army, which has grown to a nationwide effort to confront bullying head on.

Dianne says it's not enough to monitor your child's online activities and that parents must become actively engaged, asking questions and looking for red flags.

"When your child changes their screen name or they all the sudden change their pictures or they start deleting pictures online, or their friend group changes and you start seeing behavior changes, if you start seeing headaches and stomachaches, you need to pay attention to those and ask your children," she said. "Ask your child, have they ever, are they thinking of hurting themselves? A lot of people worry that if they ask that question, that it will cause the child to want to hurt themselves. And that's been proven that that's the opposite.

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It's all part of one family's mission to save lives.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text TALK to 741-741 or visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Even if it feels like it, you are not alone.

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