One-Year After Her Daughter Mallory’s Death, Dianne Grossman Brings Courage To The Classroom
“Sticks and stones can break your bones but names can never hurt you.” — Anonymous
“Wrong,” says Dianne Grossman, Mallory Grossman’s mother. She knows, from painful, personal experience that bullying, at school and through cyber-bullying — including hateful words, name-calling and images — these words and messages do hurt. Sometimes, it feels like too much to bear.
She knows because on June 14, 2017, Mallory Grossman, Dianne’s daughter, committed suicide. Mallory was the target of vicious, unrelenting bullying in school and online.
“Mallory wasn’t a two minute story. She was a 12 year old girl and she was my daughter.” — Dianne Grossman
A year later, Mallory’s Army is taking formation, lining up with a new website and a crystal clear focus on a mission that Grossman hopes will honor her daughter’s life: empowering kids like Mallory and others to be courageous and stand together against bullying. In a recent interview with STOPit, she outlined the goals for the organization, “My goals for Mallory’s Army are very simple,” she says. “The organization has three main audiences; kids, schools and the community. Really, we aren’t trying to create or change the anti-bullying curriculum. There are really good resources out there already and they don’t need to be re-invented. What we need to do is give kids, especially, the power to work together, to stand together on the playground and in their classrooms. To give each other courage.”
Grossman says that in many cases, the desire is there to stop bullying and the resources are there to help, but what is lacking is the piece of the puzzle where the kids and the adults get to make the choice to take back their power, as a group. “We all have the power to make better, kinder choices and cut off bullying behavior,” she assures us.
“There will always be children who are bullies,” she says. “That’s human nature and we can’t change that. But what we can do is empower the other 80% of the children to be the CEO’s of their hallways and lunchrooms. We can give them the power to say, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa — not here.’”
Grossman has spoken to hundreds of kids, school faculty and administrators and community members since Mallory died, and what she sees most is a lot of willingness to take a stand against bullying, but also a lot of unfocused, disorganized programming that sparks immediate reaction but no real, long term change. Through the work of Mallory’s Army, she is employing a powerfully simple solution: give kids and adults a common story to share and create a place with that story for them to band together, share their own stories, and commit to standing for each other so no one has to go it alone against a bully.
“Through the work of the organization, we tell Mallory’s story over and over again, hoping that by telling her story, kids feel less alone, and stronger and more capable of fighting back against bullies,” says Grossman. “Our organization isn’t programmatic. We are not an anti-bullying solution. We are enrichment for schools, teaching children to sell the philosophy (of anti-bullying) to each other.”
Mallory’s Army provides groups with posters, inspirational gear and practical tips about starting their own, school-based contingent of anti-bully warriors. This helps kids join their individual voices to make a noise bigger and more powerful than the bullies are making.
For instance, you’ll see kids in schools that rally behind Mallory’s Army wearing bracelets and hoodies emblazoned with “Mallory’s Army” and “It’s a Bracelet Kind of Life”. This show of solidarity is empowering and represents a kind, courageous bulwark against what some consider an epidemic of bullying and threatening behavior in our culture.
Dianne Grossman says that moving forward, she wants Mallory’s Army to focus on establishing chapters in each state, “Laws are so different state to state,” she says. “It would be impossible to think we can advocate effectively everywhere all at once, except in one way — we can be a resource to promote involvement and positive action, everywhere, no matter what the laws are currently, about how bullying is treated and the consequences for bullying.”
For Grossman and the growing ranks of Mallory’s Army, that positive action is, first and foremost, being kind. “Mallory had a special place in her heart for kids living with cancer,” Grossman says. “She felt so awful for them, that they suffered and missed out on so much that was part of being a kid. She wanted to do something for them, so she would make these bracelets and sell them and donate the proceeds to charities that gave support and assistance to kids with cancer.
It was what Mallory called, Grossman says, living “A bracelet kind of life.”
Dianne Grossman and her growing army know they can’t solve all the world’s ills or rescue every person who is hurting. But, “We can teach each other and give each other the space to walk a little softer,” she says. “Social media has completely changed our social and cultural landscape and we’re (parents) kidding ourselves if we think we can parent in 2018 the same way we parented in 1982. Technology has made it easy to attack and be mean and spread hate, but we can also use technology to combat this and use apps and our own knowledge of social media to empower and protect each other.”
“If our kids have a Bachelor’s degree in Snapchat, we need our Master’s degree.” — Dianne Grossman
Grossman has spent much of her time since June of 2017, getting Mallory’s Army up and running, working every day to turn the painful end to Mallory’s life into a story of hope and courage that others can carry forward in her memory. “We’re working on a film to show this fall, a documentary. It will share Mallory’s story and hopefully give others a way to connect what happened to her to what’s happening in their own schools and to commit to being a CEO in their own school or community.” Grossman hopes that the documentary will embolden more groups of kids in more schools to join the ranks of Mallory’s Army and stand together against bullying.
If you want to empower children, give them something to do. — Dianne Grossman
For more information about Mallory’s Army, visit mallorysarmy.org.
Suicide is being called an epidemic by many in the health and human services fields. On June 7, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing that suicide rates have increased significantly across the US. The report raises an alarm, and highlights 25 states with documented increases in suicides of more than 30 percent between 2009 and 2016.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or self harm, there are people who are willing to help.