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Bus Monitor Bullying Is Proof It's Not Just a Schoolyard Problem

It’s time to acknowledge, accept and deal with one of the primary sources of children who bully and abuse others — the parents.

“It’s a rite of passage.”  “It’s just boys being boys.” “I was bullied when I was a kid and it was no big deal.”

Fortunately, ignorant statements like these have begun to be shot down over the last few years, but there are still those who believe them. The truth of the matter is that bullying extends way beyond just a couple of kids in the schoolyard. And now, we have an example of exactly that truth.

We have Ms. Karen Klein, an elderly adult in a position of authority no less, being relentlessly abused by children on a school bus. Bullies do indeed bully everyone, not just other kids. Bullying is just one "flavor" of abuse, and abusive behavior is a widespread societal issue these days.

The four boys who were caught on tape abusing Klein have been suspended from public school for a year (which means they have been placed in an "alternate" learning environment outside of the normal public school system), have been given 50 hours of community service and have been enrolled into a bullying prevention program. Would that all bullies were handled like this. There would be much less of it going around. I think it’s very appropriate and a great start.

It’s a certainty that this isn’t the first and only time these boys have abused someone. It’s probably just the first time they’ve been caught doing it. Or, more likely, they have been caught before, but now that an elderly woman was the recipient of the abuse, it couldn’t be ignored as it is so often when it’s "just" other children on the receiving end. If these consequences were imposed on these lads for past bullying incidents, this particular situation probably would never have happened.

I’m concerned that the focus of this story has now turned to the nearly $700,000 that has been raised for Karen Klein. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a wonderful gesture on the part of the public to do this. But we can’t simply give everyone who is bullied and abused a gift because we feel bad for them. We need to do more. We need to be proactive. We need to do whatever we can to prevent this type of behavior before it happens. You can’t just “pay off” trauma.

One thing we can do to really turn this around is to start holding the parents at least partially responsible in situations like these. Alarms need to go off when a situation like this occurs. Statistics show that there is a very high probability, edging on certainty, that one or both of the parents of each of these children are abusive themselves.

Children learn what they live. That’s just a fact. My experience, coupled with the experience of many others, show that when children are "hard core" abusers like we have here, it indicates that someone in the home is role modeling that abusive behavior. Either directly — through abusing the children themselves — or by abusing the spouse, or both. The parents must be held accountable for some amount of responsibility in this incident.

At the very least, the parents should be investigated by some sort of social services bureau for abuse in the family. Further, the parents should be required to foot the bill for the alternate education their children are required to receive because they can’t seem to act with respect and civility towards other people.

And at the very least, the parents should be required to attend the exact same Bully Prevention Program as their children. It’s time to acknowledge, accept and deal with one of the primary sources of children that bully and abuse others — the parents.

Meri July 03, 2012 at 03:37 PM
I watched the YouTube video yesterday, as much of it as I could stand. Personally, I felt these boys were disgusting and their punishment wasn't quite severe enough (although after watching what I did, there is no way on God's green earth that I'd let them ANYwhere near an elderly home!). However, I also feel that, as a bus monitor, Ms. Klein was sorely lacking in her duties, as well. Granted, there's no easy way to get bullies to stop, but the video (what I saw of it) does not indicate that she instructs them to knock it off. The articles that I've read said she tried to "ignore" the boys. Where is that monitoring? It's a sad state of affairs in America that this is what our youth are becoming.
Judy S. Freedman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. July 03, 2012 at 10:52 PM
As a bullying prevention specialist, I have been closely monitoring this alarming story. I am interested in learning about the information you have stating that "It’s a certainty that this isn’t the first and only time these boys have abused someone." I have not seen that. Do you know for a fact that these boys have been caught before? This seems to have been left out in the numerous articles I have read. I have been trying to understand the motivation of these boys. There are many reasons for bullying. Many kids bully for the power, while others bully because they are imitating what they are living with at home. Some kids bully others because of peer pressure and believe that these actions will result in acceptance by peers. Others bully because of the attention they receive. In some situations they enjoy the laughter, admiration, and cheers from the bystanders. I have worked with so many children and tweens who do not realize or understand the power of their words! Sadly, many kids engage is these behaviors “for the fun of it,” and do not believe these behaviors are wrong. I wonder if the boys taunting Karen Klein escalated the outrageousness of their accusations to out do each other??? We can NOT generalize that all bullies engage in these behaviors for the same reasons.
Anna Sweeney July 06, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Dear Ms Freedman, does it really matter for what reasons bullies bully? Why would you validate their behavior by giving them the extra attention and turning them into a case study instead of calling them what they are - bullies? Why focus on personae rather than behavior? Aren't kids (and quite a few adults) self-centric enough? Perhaps, if specialists followed the advice they so often give to parents, and focused on an act and not a child, this type of behavior would not have taken hold...

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