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The parents of a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide this summer after allegedly being bullied are hoping their lawsuit against the school district can help ensure that other parents never have to endure the heartbreak they are experiencing.
Dianne and Seth Grossman announced at a news conference on Tuesday that they plan to sue the school district for negligence after their daughter, Mallory, killed herself on June 14 after what they claimed was relentless cyberbullying by her classmates.
"We just want to honor her,'' Dianne Grossman told Matt Lauer and Hoda Kotb on TODAY Wednesday. "We don't want another parent to walk in our shoes. It's just incredibly painful, and so for us that's what we want to honor."
The Grossmans say Mallory, a sixth-grader at Copeland Middle School in Rockaway, New Jersey, was bullied in person and via text messages, as well as on social media through Instagram and Snapchat.
"This case is a wake-up call,'' family attorney Bruce Nagel said on TODAY. "Cyberbullying is going on in every school in every city in this country. School administrators need to do something.
"When there's a report of a problem like there was repeatedly by parents, you have to move on it, and this school did not. Every school needs to learn a lesson from this case."
Mallory was a straight-A student who loved gymnastics.
"I think the best way to describe Mallory is that she's your all-American girl,'' Dianne said on TODAY. "She's the girl that you hope your children would grow up to be."
Mallory told her parents about the bullying in October 2016. Dianne said at Tuesday's news conference that school officials never filed any harassment, intimidation or bullying (HIB) reports with the state after she contacted them about the problem.
"It got to the point where she didn't want to go to school, (said she had) chronic headaches, stomach aches, not feeling good, at one point her grades plummeted,'' Dianne said at the news conference.
"It was being investigated, and that was as far as it went, and nothing ever came of it,'' Seth Grossman said on TODAY.
Rockaway Township School District Superintendent Greg McGann declined to comment to TODAY about the intended suit. In June, the Rockaway School Board issued a statement that it is cooperating with an ongoing investigation by the Morris County Prosecutor's Office and cannot respond to rumors and accusations.
Dianne said they followed the school's protocol for reporting incidents of bullying.
"As parents you don't want to be that parent where you're constantly badgering the school, but when you start to see things at home that start to change who your child is, you do want to bring it to your school's attention,'' she said on TODAY.
The Grossmans also reached out to a parent of one of the classmates they claim was bullying Mallory.
"Dismissal, denial,'' Dianne said. "She said, 'Oh my God, it's no big deal.' She said, 'I don't know, do you want my daughter to apologize or something?' It was complete outrage, I couldn't believe it."
The family was in the process of removing Mallory from the school to transfer her to a private school when she committed suicide, they said at the news conference.
McGann said in a statement on the school district's website that they are reviewing their procedures.
"Our administrative team will be meeting over the summer to review all of our district procedures and plan for district wide community building at our schools. This will involve all of our students, staff and families as we seek ways to build strong family and community engagement as well as promote positive school culture and climate in all of our schools."
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