Mother of bullied teen who committed suicide, tells local students; 'your words matter'

| 14 Mar 2019 | 02:06

    By Mandy Coriston
    Newton - Wearing a bright blue “Mallory’s Army” T-Shirt, Dianne Grossman on Tuesday told Halsted Middle School 7th- and 8th-graders, "your words matter.”
    Grossman said that when she was bullied as a child in rural Georgia, in the days before the internet, bullying did not spill over into after school hours.
    “When I left school, I was just another kid," she said. That stands in contrast to when Grossman's daughter, Mallory, was harassed at school and also on the web.
    In June 2017, under constant pressure from harassment, Mallory took her own life. She was 12 years old.
    “When Mal told me about the bullies, I told her all the things I could think of to comfort her,” Grossman said, “But it wasn’t the right solution. We need to acknowledge that yesterday’s solutions don’t work.”
    Grossman told the students that suicide is the leading cause of death among pre-teens and that it’s preventable as long as people acknowledge the crisis. To illustrate what teens face, Grossman presented an easel bearing a photograph of Mallory on her first day of school as a 5th-grader.
    “Each and every one of us is born with a blank canvas, and the people who love you will paint you with beautiful brushstrokes," she said.
    With a black marker, Grossman made big, black Xs across Mallory's backpack, her outfit, her jewelry - all the things Mallory had been bullied about.
    She explained that unkind remarks are like taking a black Sharpie to your beautiful canvas, "and even if they say they are sorry, it doesn’t erase those black marks.”
    Grossman said her daughter had been a gymnast and cheerleader who loved making jewelry and supporting a camp for children with cancer.
    “Kids these days say ‘yolo’- you only live once, but that’s not true," she said. "We live twice. We live now, and we live on in how people remember us when we’re gone.”
    Grossman's life changed in just four minutes on that June day almost two years ago, but she still considers herself blessed.
    “I only have an hour to change your life, but I am so lucky I got to be the mom of the girl who can change it.”
    Grossman encouraged students to think about their character, how the world sees them, and how they treat others. Concluding her presentation by passing out bright blue Mallory’s Army bracelets, she asked the students to take a pledge, so they repeated in unision: “I will always be kind, I will wear my Mallory’s Army band every day, and I will be the kind of person I want to meet.”
    Language Arts teacher Joseph Bolen said the message was eloquent and necessary.
    “You could see some of them tearing up while Mrs. Grossman was speaking," he said. "...As a father, it makes me think about how to protect him [his young son]. And I think Dianne is just the bravest person to be able to do this and gather support and keep her daughter’s memory alive. I think that’s what any parent would want.”
    The school assembly was a collaboration with the Newton Police Department. Grossman was scheduled to meet with parents in an evening program on Wednesday, Mar. 13.
    “Her message is just so meaningful,” Newton Chief of Police Mike Richards said, “I hope it will have a lasting effect on the kids and their parents.”
    Additional information on the Mallory’s Army initiative and upcoming events can be found online at or Facebook search: Mallory’s Army.