Karen Klein, bus monitor, endures a barrage of expletive-peppered abuse from seventh grade boys.
After video of an elderly bus monitor being driven to tears by a group of relentlessly cruel seventh graders went viral this week – and a fundraising campaign to send the senior citizen on a “vacation of a lifetime” has garnered more than $450,000 –commentators are wondering just exactly what’s going on with America’s reaction to incident.
Earlier this week, the 10-minute video of 68-year-old grandmother of eight and bus monitor Karen Klein being tormented by a group of preteens on a school bus in Greece, New York, went viral on YouTube. Soon after, a campaign to raise $5,000 buy Klein a vacation also went viral – as of Friday morning, the pot contained more than $450,000 and was rising.
Want more background? Read about the bullied bus monitor incident here.
Now, Klein has said that she doesn’t want to press charges against the four students, including a police officer’s son, who called her a “bitch” and “fat-ass”, suggested that her children should commit suicide and that if they cut her open with a knife, hamburgers would come out. Instead, she wants to return to her job, this time on a different bus route, and with an apology from the students.
But as the outpouring of comment, emotion, anger, and money continues, observers are wondering what it all means – including the inevitable conclusion that society is doomed.
Both cruel kids and goodhearted donors in a ‘frenzy’
Calling the now more than $450,000 fund raised for Klein “way beyond any typical vacation and way beyond any proportional response to the hurt Klein suffered”, Brad Hirschfield at The Washington Post’s For God’s Sake blog noted that both the original attack and the response are exemplar of mob rule: “While there is obviously no moral equivalence between the bullies and the donors to the fund established on Klein’s behalf, both reflect the fact that people like to join with others, and things which they might not otherwise do alone, for good or for bad, suddenly make great sense when done in community.” People are social animals, whose sense of right and wrong is determined by context.
Schools won’t discipline those ‘nasty kids’
The abuse Klein endured, evidently on multiple occasions, should raise some pretty tough questions for society, argued Stephanie Hanes at the Christian Science Monitor, “not the least of which is: what’s going to happen to those nasty kids from the Athena Middle School in Greece, New York?” Because basically, the school system can’t do anything to punish the “little monsters” who drove a bus monitor to tears, and it certainly won’t expel them. “Unless there are real changes in parenting, real changes in school system policies, we will do nothing to make sure this doesn’t happen on another bus tomorrow. And next time it might not go up on YouTube.”
Teach victims how to deal with bullies
In theory, wrote Paula Reed at the Christian Science Monitor, Klein, with 20 years as a bus driver and three as a bus monitor under her belt, should have had the authority to put the pint-sized bullies in their place. But she didn’t: “All I can say is that her demeanor and the way she handles it mimic exactly what a victim the same age as the tormentors would do.” And the bus driver didn’t: “One of the chief ways adults in education keep control over the kids, who always outnumber them, is by acting as allies, and the driver dropped the ball.” So what to do? “This is why just punishing bullies is not enough,” wrote Reed, explaining that “the only way to prevent future bullying is to teach potential victims how to deal with bullies.”
Society is in decline
The Greece local newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle, bemoaned the state of society in a editorial published after the video went viral. “If this episode doesn’t shake the community into reassessing its apathy regarding disrespectful and abusive behavior, the community may be beyond repair,” the paper declared. “[O]ur culture is in a state of decline in terms of entertainment, politics and public discourse. Parents, all adults, must stand up to crass behavior and set an example for our children, and for one another.” So far, we’re all doing a pretty bad job.
The original video: Making the bus monitor cry
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