Jim Kouri
July 26, 2017
NJ 12-year-old's suicide a plea for cyber-bullying law: GOP candidate Heather Darling
By Jim Kouri

On June 14, when many Americans honor the adoption of the American Flag on July 14, 1777, a 12-year-old gymnast is believed to have ended her own life after her mother on that day urged officials at the child's school to clamp down on Internet bullies. The suicide is being investigated although the young girl's mother hasn't said bullying played a role in the incident. But the GOP candidate for Morris County Freeholder wants more than just talk about the serious and growing problem of bullying on the worldwide web.

"Cyber bullying is a crime that can be committed anonymously and the messages can be impossible to trace and delete," said Roxbury, New Jersey, attorney Heather Darling who is favored to win her bid for Freeholder. "While the bully is safely hiding behind fake accounts, the victim is left to deal with the fallout of the posted statements or images including substantial ridicule from peers. Once posted the images or statements often spread quickly online and the victim is faced with the reality that anyone they encounter may have seen the posted material," said the Seton Hall School of Law graduate.

According to an officer from the Rockaway Township Police Department, Mallory Grossman was found dead after she was allegedly tormented on the Snapchat social-media website. It's been classified a suicide, but a criminal investigation is still being conducted. The Morris County Prosecutor's Office is investigating the girl's tragic death, according to Fredric Knapp, chief prosecutor.

Morris County detectives said the young gymnast's mother, Dianne Grossman, complained in person to administrators at Copeland Middle School about the alleged cyber-bullying just hours before her daughter died. NBC news reported that Internet posts suggest the pre-teen girl had been bullied using Snapchat.

Mallory was an impressive gymnast in school and a cheerleader at Star Athletics Cheer and Tumbling, where after her death her team mates wore light blue in tribute to her. Heather Hitzel, Mallory's gymnastics instructor, told the local newspapers that she came up with the idea of wearing the color to honor her memory.

"She was a former gymnast of mine and [after Mallory's death] her mom and I stayed close friends," Hitzel noted.

Rockaway Township Schools Superintendent Greg McGann said in a statement last week that the district is fully cooperating with the authorities in their investigation, according to his statement.

"As Superintendent of Schools, it is with deep sadness that I inform you our school community has experienced a tragedy," Rockaway Superintendent Greg McGann said in a statement. "A middle school student died suddenly on the evening of Wednesday, June 14, 2017."

McGann said the death of the student is subject to an investigation by the appropriate authorities. "This is standard protocol, and the District is fully cooperating with the appropriate authorities regarding their investigation," he said.

In his statement, McGann also said, "The District has implemented a wide array of support services for students, parents, and staff as our community copes with this tragedy."

"It's a sad day for all the students of Rockaway Township," Mayor Michael Dachisen said in his statement. "My condolences go out to the family. It's a tragic and horrible thing." It was also noted that officials remain silent about the details of the young girl's death, which is being investigated.

And Republican candidate Heather Darling added: "Penalties for cyberbullying have been evolving but remain far less than adequate deterrents given the damage resulting from these crimes. Internet anonymity often makes prosecution so difficult that the victim finds themselves without recourse. Extensive cooperation is needed between social media sites, Internet service providers and law enforcement to remove the posts and identify the party or parties responsible for the attacks."

Then she added, "Once the parties responsible for the posting have been identified, penalties must be assessed that fit the potential consequences."

© Jim Kouri

 

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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