Monday, June 25, 2012

Schoolbus Bullying Incident Raises More Important Issues than this Particular Monitor's Suffering

Like many out there, the past few days, I have seen lots of news reports about the bus monitor who was bullied in Greece, NY. While I feel the outrage at the children for talking to her like that, I also feel something that I've not heard many others express: "Why would she let those kids talk to her like that?"

I understand that she was very upset and the children were incredibly cruel, but I don't fully understand, how an adult in a position of authority, lets kids run roughshod over her like that. I wanted her to take control of the situation, and tell those kids they would be punished if they didn't stop their inappropriate remarks. And then I wanted it to happen.

Without fully understanding the situation at the school system, I can't entirely blame the bus monitor, Karen Klein. But, I think there are some questions we need to be asking: Why did she endure this without taking charge? Was it a lack of training by the people at the school on how to handle bullying kids? Was it just her own personality? Or was it that she'd tried numerous times to get misbehaving kids disciplined only to have school officials say no?

Those questions need to be answered, because adults are supposed to be the people in charge. They're supposed to deal with these things when children can't. And I am at a loss when something like this happens. From what I've read in news accounts, Ms. Klein did nothing to even try to get these kids disciplined. She let it go, allowing these vicious children to continue riding the bus unchecked and probably attack people their own age. 

I'm sorry, where I come from, that's not acceptable. When children act up/misbehave, other children look to adults to see what is going to happen. When adults don't rein that in, then the other kids start misbehaving too, or at least view misbehavior as an acceptable thing, because nothing bad happens. The other day, my kid woke up and said, "Mom, I'm hungry. Make me breakfast." At which point, I stood there, and said, "Excuse me. You need to start over." At which point, she rephrased her demand, adding the appropriate deference to her voice, the word please and phrased it as a question, not a demand. I'm her mother, not her servant. However, I'm sure she would treat me like her servant if I let her. Just like these kids will continue to bully, if adults let them.  

I understand that even kids who are punished, will often keep at it, but there are plenty who will stop. And we need to try to get as many kids on the stop track as we can. And that takes the people in charge acting like they're in charge. When you're in the position of monitoring behavior on a bus, you should do so. And this behavior, I'm certain, violates the school's rules of behavior for buses. Even if she didn't want to have a severe confrontation with the children, she at the least should have told them what  they were doing was against the school bus rules and that she was going to write them up. But, there's nothing. There's crying. 

And I understand she was terribly upset because one of the children crossed a line that no one should cross by telling Klein she was old and alone because her whole family committed suicide. And in fact, one of her children did commit suicide.  So, on that level, I get how she could become unhinged after that. And after that, maybe I would cry and be unable to do my job, so I don't want to be too harsh on her.

But, I still think we need to look at the role of authority figures on buses and in schools.  Adults need to stand up to children who are bullies.  Even if she didn't during the incident, she needed to report those kids and ensure they were disciplined. If adults can't stand up to the bullying and ensure it is punished, then what hope do these kids' peers have?

Also, even when kids misbehave like this, it doesn't mean they're bad kids. It was also important for those kids' parents to know. Some, if not all, of those parents would be mortified to know their kids were behaving that way. And some of those parents--had they been told--would actually have implemented discipline to change that behavior.  (Now, because of the video and public pressure, they know).  If parents aren't aware of what's going on, they have no hope of changing the kids behavior. And the longer kids behave like that unchecked, the more it becomes entrenched, the more it becomes habit. And it becomes harder to get kids out of that cycle. So, it's important to tell authorities and to have authorities do something--including telling parents. I know there are parents out there who don't care or don't know how to change their kids' behavior, but for the ones who do have a clue and a care, it's important they know these things.

That's my rant for today. I'll catch you tomorrow for Book Tuesday.

-Hyattsville Mom.

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