Do you know about Christine McComas? She is the mother who will not give up. Her daughter Grace, a highschool freshman at Glenelg High School, committed suicide after a drug-assisted rape and subsequent online bullying. Instead of reaching out to her with compassion, the school system's response has been one of silence, denial, disrespect, noncompliance.
Because of Christine McComas, Maryland has a law called "Grace's Law." You can learn more about the story of Grace, and the establishment of Grace's Law, on the Grace K. McComas Memorial Webpage on Facebook. Here it is:
Prohibiting a person from using an interactive computer service to maliciously engage in a specified course of conduct that inflicts serious emotional distress on a minor or places a minor in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury under specified circumstances; and defining terms.
Grace's Law is supposed to be taught in all Howard County Schools. It should be the beginning of a teachable moment with our students about how serious online bullying can be, what their own personal responsibility is, and how desperately the world needs kindness. And yet it seems that the law is either mentioned briefly or not at all. Perhaps the fact that the school system failed both Grace and her family so miserably makes addressing her law too uncomfortable.
Let me remind you that Christine McComas is still fighting to get her daughter's complete school records, more than four years after her death. Responses from the school system have gone from outright silence, to claiming they didn't know she wanted the records, to saying they had already sent them. These same people refused to let Grace's fellow students memorialize her in the yearbook, and tried to prevent them from honoring her memory at graduation.
It looks very much like hcpss has done everything in its power to make this situation go away, but I don't think they ever imagined the power and tenacity of a mother's love. Recently the school system embarked on a campaign to address social media responsibility. Director of Communications John White posted this on Twitter:
Schools Encourage "Responsible Use of Technology and Social Media" #ThinkB4UPost Leave Positive #LastingImpression
Christine McComas responded:
@4jlwhite @BrianBassett10 @hcpssoit Post with G.R.A.C.E. which stands for Giving Respect And Compassion to Everyone! #SayHerName "McComas"
@HCPSS @4jlwhite Grace's Law is named for student Grace McComas, lost to rape/&social media abuse. Why don't you teach/tweet about that?
Mr. White, a Communications professional, did what any responsible representative of a school system would do when addressed by an aggrieved parent.
He blocked her. (See this subsequent post for an explanation.)
So today I dedicate this post, and this Mother's Day, to Christine McComas. She is the mother who will not give up. She is fighting not only for justice for her own daughter, but for the safety of all our children. I stand with her. I hope that you will, too.