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

Monday, July 31, 2023
District, family reach $9.1M settlement after teen dies by suicide
It is the largest bullying settlement in New Jersey history, the family's attorney said.

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.

& 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

PREVIOUS | Parents sue New Jersey school district over 12-year-old daughter's suicide

Anthony Johnson has the details on the lawsuit over a 12-year-old girl's suicide.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* More New Jersey news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.