Jersey Matters – Cyberbullying


(intense music) – [Larry] Welcome back
to Jersey Matters. The tragic suicide of 12
year old Mallory Grossman rocked not only Copeland Middle
School in Rockaway Township, but schools and communities
across the State, because Mallory was the
victim of cyberbullying. Raising the question, are
schools and law enforcement doing enough to protect
children like Mallory? In a moment, we’re
going to talk to someone advocating a national
solution to cyberbullying. But first, here’s
Ellen Kolodziej, with more on the Mallory
Grossman tragedy. Ellen
– [Ellen] Thank you Larry. Sadly, we’ve all heard
about how cyberbullying is on the rise among
teenagers, and even pre-teens. But now the question is, who is ultimately responsible after a young person
takes their own life? Well one New Jersey couple
is blaming a school, after their 12 year old
daughter committed suicide. – [Seth Grossman] Small
device can be a lethal weapon in the hands of the wrong child. – [Ellen] Mallory Grossman’s
parents say constant taunts from classmates through texts, Instagram, and Snapchat made their beautiful
daughter distraught. [Dianne Grossman]
It humiliated her, it intimidated her; it
made her feel alone. – [Seth] The text messages
escalated to the point where they actually said,
“Why don’t you kill yourself?” – [Ellen] Her parents are now
suing Copeland Middle School and Rockaway School District, because they say
administrators ignored their repeated pleas for help. – [Claudio Cerullo]
Why did it continue? I mean, certainly myself
as a school administrator it would have been over. I would have had the parents in, there would have been no
further contact with this child. I mean, I guess, how did
it lead to the extent that this child felt
so bad about herself that she had to take her life? And that’s what angers me. How did it continue? – [Ellen] Claudio
Cerullo speaks at schools across the nation with
an organization called Teach Anti-Bullying Inc. He’s also helped other
parents sue school districts in the past. And from what’s been reported, he says it looks like
the Grossman’s may
have a solid case. Especially because
the bullying laws are tougher in New
Jersey than most states. – [Claudio] Yes, they are
absolutely accountable for the loss of life. And particularly if it
happened on school property, and if it’s physical in nature. ‘Cause there’s multiple
levels of bullying that occurred with this child. Not just from the
social and physical, but certainly from
the cyber realm. And some things
can be controlled within the school. And some things are out of
the control of the District. But I think that what makes
this so curious to me, is why did it continue? – [Ellen] The school district
would not comment on the case. But superintendent Greg
McGann said in a statement, “That the teacher,
staff, and administrators within the Rockaway
Township School District, are, as they have always been, and as they will continue to be, committed to protecting
the rights and safety for all our students.” Now the Grossman’s say
no matter what happens in any New Jersey courtroom, they’re raising awareness
about the dangers of cyberbullying. They’ve raised almost
$100,000 to start Mal’s Group. And they will work for the
rest of their lives they say, to stop cyberbullying. Reporting for Jersey
Matters, I’m Ellen Kolodziej. – [Larry] All right,
thank you Ellen. Now we continue the
conversation on cyberbullying with Todd Schobel, who is an advocate
against cyberbullying. He’s president
and CEO of STOPit. Thank you so much
for being here. I guess the obvious
question is, what is STOPit? – [Todd Schobel]
STOPit essentially
gives people a voice. When we speak in K12, it gives a voice to
not only the students, but of the administration. To be able to anonymously
report things that they see, by using an app on their phone. – [Larry] Okay. – [Todd] And it
provides a platform, also for the administrators to receive these
reports in real-time. – [Larry] You’re supposed to, if you see bullying, report it. But this is a way of
doing it anonymously? – [Todd] Yeah. I mean, absolutely. It’s 100% anonymous. And what there is, is
people see what’s going on. They’re the eyes and
ears in this school, the faculty and the students. But then you have these
barriers that come into place. Fear of retribution,
being called a snitch. Like we were saying
earlier, social status. Do I wanna get involved? And those are very
powerful things that get people to hold
back before they will share. – [Larry] So for
this STOPit to work, a school district would
have to implement it? – [Todd] Absolutely.
– [Larry] How many? – [Todd] Thousands of schools
all across the country, and we’re also in five
different countries. – [Larry] How about in Jersey? – [Todd] In New Jersey,
hundreds and hundreds of schools are on the platform. And coming up this new
season, the school start. We work with insurance
companies, insurance providers. And in the State of New Jersey, hundreds and hundreds of schools are now financed by
their insurance providers through a partnership
that STOPit has with them to provide the platform for
free to the school districts. No cost. – [Larry] You said hundreds
of school districts, or hundreds of schools
in New Jersey have this. Does this school,
that she went to? – [Todd] No they do not. But I know that they
in Rockaway, I believe. – [Larry] Rockaway, yeah.
– [Todd] Yeah. No they do not, but
Rockaway does have access to our platform for free via
their insurance provider. So we welcome to have
a discussion with them so they can implement STOPit, to give their students
a comfortable voice, like we said earlier; to be able to share
information that they see. And it also gives the
administrators the ability to– There’s a backend system, and
it’s a case management system. So it really helps
them; saves them time. Helps them with their
investigatory process. They have the ability
to have conversations with people that report in,
anonymously via the app. So they can find
out what’s going on, they can have a video sent
to them; screen shots. They get evidence, so then
they can act on these things and prevent. – [Larry] I get it, but … – [Todd] and most importantly
deter these behaviors, because everyone knows
that everyone’s watching. – [Larry] That’s the
most important part. – [Todd] Because it’s
a preventative measure. – [Larry] I get it.
– [Todd] Got it. – [Larry] So you’re saying
just by having the app, that could deter things. However, again, I wanna
go back to this case. Because, and again,
everything’s been alleged, it’s still being investigated, it’s being litigated. If they knew about it, and
they do nothing about it, there has to be
an onus on schools to act on information. It can’t just be
getting the information. They have to be
able to act on it. – [Todd] Yes. – [Larry] And so, where
does that come from? Is that the government
that should be forcing them to do that? Well again, like we have
some of the strictest anti-bullying laws, or what we call HIB in
the State of New Jersey, Harassment –
Intimidation – Bullying. And when there is a report
of potential bullying, or cyberbullying takes
place in a school, the school has a mandatory,
has a minimum of 10 days to find resolution. – [Larry] There was a
case in Massachusetts where a young girl was
telling her boyfriend to commit suicide. – [Todd] Yes. – [Larry] Not just
telling to commit suicide, pushing him, saying “Why
haven’t you done it yet? You promised, get back in
the car, kill yourself.” She’s been convicted. She’s gonna do time You would think that
would be a wake-up call across the country. Very few people involved
in cyberbullying though, do have to go through criminal– Get criminal charges. – [Todd] Yeah, well you know sometimes you’re dealing
with kids as young as seven years old; ten years old. That are creating
campaigns of hate to go after a student, right? It’s an imbalance of power. You see somebody that you
don’t like the way they look. You don’t like where
they come from. You don’t like the
clothes they wear. Whatever it may be. Then they start a campaign
against that individual. – [Larry] There’s seven
year olds involved in cyberbullying?
– [Todd] Oh yeah, absolutely. You have Instagram;
someone posts a picture, “look at this.” You know, “look where we went.” And someone says, “Well you can’t afford
to go anyplace special, we went to Italy right.” Or whatever they do, and
they make those comparisons. And then people pile on,
and they make comments. And the crazy things is,
kids can’t put it down. They have to go back and look to see what people
are saying to them. It’s awful how they
get sucked into, very quickly, just
some horrible hate. And then it leads to what this
girl did with her boyfriend. It leads to people, and kids,
calling out their victim to commit suicide. Take your life. – [Larry] You know we
talked about this case before the interview started … – [Todd] Yeah. – [Larry] On Air. And you were saying,
“This is common.” – [Todd] Yeah, I mean,
they call them trolls. – [Larry] Well I mean,
somebody is saying to somebody to commit suicide. – [Todd] Absolutely. They’ll wait– Multiple cases where you read
the case file and the history, where they’ll show the
social media interaction. And they start to go, and then the child starts
to break down, physically. Doesn’t come to school. And then they will continue to abuse them. And then finally they’ll say, it’s time for you
to commit suicide. – [Larry] But the reason
that the Massachusetts case got so much coverage, ’cause it was so unusual for someone to be
charged in this. – [Todd] To be charged yes. But not unusual the behavior. – [Larry] No to be charged,
and then convicted of it. – [Todd] It’s fantastic. – [Larry] You would think so. – [Todd] Yes. I firmly believe that– Do you think that young man
would have taken his life, if his girlfriend that he
was emotionally attached to, didn’t encourage
him, and tell him, and expect him to
commit suicide? – [Larry] But he still
had to take his own life. – [Todd] Absolutely,
I understand that. But words, words have
a powerful effect. – [Larry] So you
would like to see those type of convictions
across the country? – [Todd] Yeah, absolutely. You hold people accountable
for their actions. Now listen, there’s
a lot of gray area in these investigations. I’m not fully aware of
everything that took place. And I don’t want the
court of public opinion of what I read and see. But ultimately, he took his life, and she was a major
contributor to that. Take it this way. If you’re in a movie theater, and you scream “fire”, and people get trampled. Well you didn’t trample them, but you caused that Isn’t that illegal? – [Larry] Well let’s
bring this local. So if it is determined
that this young girl in Rockaway Township
was bullied to the point where she took her own life. You’d like to see criminal
charges, against whom? The kids that did it? Or the school? If it can be proven. – [Todd] Well I think people
should be held accountable. So whether it be the school, whether it be the students, whether it be both. If evidence shows– And see everything’s
identifiable Especially when
it’s cyberbullying. You can identify all of this. So if you can identify
a student, or students, that are telling someone
to go kill themselves, well those people should
be held accountable. To what level? Again, I don’t
really know there. But they should be
held accountable. And we see case and case again, where this happens,
and suicide occurs. And they found the kids
that were doing it. – [Larry] And nothing happens. – [Todd] It’s
ridiculous what happens. There’s no accountability. They laugh. – [Larry] Okay, and
so just to wrap up. STOPit is available, it’s
free for school districts. – [Todd] Paid through
insurance relationships, which we have vast relationships
with insurance companies in New Jersey. So I encourage parents, reach out to your school,
your school district and ask them if
they have STOPit. Or you can reach out, obviously,
to STOPitsolutions.com. And we can help get you
to the right people. And just make society,
and make schools– Let’s get back to learning, and let teachers get
back to teaching, and let kids be back
to being kids again. Kind of clean things up again. Shot of penicillin.
– [Larry] Thank you so much. Appreciate you coming in.
– [Todd] Thank you. – [Larry] Todd Schobel is an
advocate against cyberbullying, president and CEO of STOPit. When Jersey Matters continues. Coming up next on
Jersey Matters. You will meet the most
unlikely martial arts champion.