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Friday, June 22, 2012

Bus Monitor Bullied: It's Time To Say ENOUGH

Like everybody else in this world, I've seen some ugly things. People being rude, kids acting out. Once my business partner was attacked in Austria (we think either because he was an American or Jewish or both: we were never sure because the attacker was speaking German at the time). The Austrian guy was muttering in German at a table next to us at an outdoor restaurant, causing the waitress to yell at him in German and apologize to us in English. Wanting to avoid a confrontation, we got up to leave, and as we did the man stood and kicked my partner Michael in the butt. I'm happy to say Michael turned around and gave the guy a hard shot in the solar plexus, knocking him across two tables, three chairs, and to the brick floor below. Last we saw of the Austrian bully, he was hobbling off across the street, hunched over and groaning.

Another incident that comes to mind is when I was in my 30s and living in Queens. I used to take a walk every day at the same time (about 8 a.m.), and every day, in the same spot, young teenagers were waiting for a school bus. The sidewalk in that spot was narrow with the busy street on one side and large hedges on the other. And every day I would have to inch my way past the hedges and the five kids who refused to move to let me pass. Finally, one day, I'd had enough. I pushed through the middle of the kids and one of them smacked me on the arm. To their utter surprise -- because of course nowadays adults are supposed to just take the abuse kids dole out -- I turned and punched the kid, a girl, in the shoulder as hard as I could. She was stunned. Her friends were stunned. All of which worked to my advantage, because by the time they became unstunned that an adult had the audacity to stand up to them I was a block and a half away. They started yelling at me, cussing, waving their arms. I remember thinking "Whatever," and that maybe next time they wouldn't be so quick to bully somebody. Of course I never knew. The next day I changed my route.

Yes, I've seen some ugly stuff. But never in my life have I seen anything like the video of the kids bullying Karen Klein, an elderly school bus monitor in Greece, New York. The link is below. The video is long and horrific and something every one of us should watch in its entirety because it gives us a hard look at what is happening in our country. Something is going terribly wrong. 


I can't say why Ms. Klein didn't react differently to this abuse. She was, after all, a monitor -- and therefore an authority figure -- on the bus. Maybe she was afraid. Maybe her instructions from the school were to take no action. Maybe, as she said on a news program, she is a non-confrontational person. Okay. To each her own. However, if those insufferable brats had been speaking to me that way, I have no doubt that I'd be in jail right now. I don't like to curse on this blog because I think swearing in writing suggests lazy skills. But I'll you what: if those foul mouthed ill-raised middle-school crumb-crunchers had said to me what they said to this grandmother of eight, I would have stood up and beaten the living shit out of every one of them. With my purse. With my shoe. With my belt. With anything I could have gotten my hands on. And after I was done with the bloody little halfwits maybe in the future they would have thought twice before they bullied somebody else; and yeah, I would have said bring it on to their parents who clearly don't have the first idea about child rearing. Throw me in jail. Do your worst. But by God I would not have let these ignorant monsters off easily, nor would I have accepted the forced and insincere apology that's sure to follow. They would have gotten the message that words and actions have consequences, sometimes painful ones, and I would have said to the cops, to the judge, to the parents, and to the world: it's time to say ENOUGH.

The Internet community has been kind to Ms. Klein. Money is being raised, people are saying they're sorry this happened. Again, okay. But what about the next time? What about all the incidents that aren't being videotaped? Sending Karen Klein on a vacation isn't going to educate young people about inflicting emotional or physical pain for no other reason than their own sick pleasure. The kids on this bus were like a pack of dogs who smelled fear and attacked. Parents: wake up. You're raising rabid animals, and sooner or later -- and like it or not -- rabid animals go down.

26 comments:

Connie said...

I could only watch a couple of minutes of that cruelty. I was more disturbed by the woman's inaction than the childish taunts. She was being paid by the school district to maintain the children's behavior, yet she did nothing. She appears to be a nice lady, a kindly grandmother type and her obvious pain is upsetting.

Children are unlearned creatures, and inherently form a Lord of the Flies environment. That is, until a smarter, older person straightens them out and teaches them what behavior is acceptable and what is most definitely not.

Parents, of course, have the most influence, and not all of them are on the job. Yet when those inexperienced kids go skipping out the door, they'll encounter all sorts of adults who will influence them as well. Camp counselors, Girl Scout leaders, schoolteachers, pastors, coaches and bus monitors. People who will impress upon these little knuckleheads that it is NOT okay to cause sorrow in other people.

So okay, Ms. Klein was not suited for her job. She admitted on Anderson Cooper that she's non-confrontational. But she wasn't just an unfortunate target on public transport, heckled by a gang of dangerous-looking thugs. She was the Bus Monitor, the authority figure. She had an opportunity to teach these children that what they were doing was wrong and yet she allowed them to learn instead that one can torture people until they weep and still get away with it. I wonder if other children were bullied on this bus from hell and she ignored the unpleasantness?

I realize that I'm being a little hard on poor passive Ms. Klein, who suffered such abuse. Perhaps she was bullied herself or came from an abusive household and she merely assumed her automatic coping mechanism. Not everyone has the guts to yank a knot in a kid's ass (except for this blogger). Obviously, she was not qualified for the job and suffered for it. But I am rankled that she's being rewarded $200K for not being the grown-up in the room, the only semblance of social civility, who is in a position to remind these heathens how it works to live with respect for others.

I did shameful, idiotic things myself when I was a pup and I thank heaven that my low moments were not on a nationwide video. I imagine these children will mature and be horrified by their stupid youthful actions. Or maybe not, since they obviously haven't been taught otherwise.

Kathleen Yasas said...

Dear Connie: Thank you for your comment. I must, however, respectfully disagree. You admit only watching a couple of minutes of the video. If you watch the whole thing, which is indeed horrifying, I think you'll see that the kids weren't just calling Ms. Klein fat and stupid. They got into some pretty rough areas, which I won't repeat here. The incident may have started out as teasing, and yes, Ms. Klein probably should have tried to stop it earlier. When they became truly abusive, including getting physical, I think she was probably frightened and lost sight of any way to stop it.

Furthermore, do you then believe that a girl wearing a tight skirt who gets raped is at fault because of the skirt? Or because she doesn't fight back? If someone beats you up because you have brown eyes, does the fault lay with you and your eyes? No. The fault belongs squarely in the corner of the rapist and the person doing the assaulting. This woman, however inappropriately passive, was the victim here. There is no excuse short of sadism that the kids on this bus went after the bus monitor. Yes, there are many questions. Why didn't she get up and go to the front of the bus to tell the driver to stop, to intercede, to do something. Karen Klein was cornered and didn't know how to handle what was happening. She shouldn't be an authority figure on a school bus, but isn't that sad? The monitor should be watching out for misbehavior on a bus, not taming maniacs who threaten to defecate in her mouth. I don't believe this was a matter of influencing young people. This, my dear, was Lord of the Flies.

Rose 10e said...

Yes, perhaps Ms. Klein was too passive, but what's her job description? She's a monitor, not a referee or an intervention specialist. These kids needed the anti-Dr. Spock treatment - a good disciplinary action when they were much younger - and then they might have learned sooner that running amok like that is not acceptable. This kind of behavior is why I hated middle school when I was in it and still don't like it. When children of that age are isolated from other age groups, they sink to the lowest level they can reach unless someone such as a parent, teacher, or principal breaks it up.
Recently the NYT had an article on the benefits of schools which go from Kindergarten through 8th grade. The combox was filled with stories supporting that type of education mostly because the schools can provide appropriate interactions within that wide age range, and the older students learn to be responsible and compassionate to the younger students while becoming appropriate leaders. Isolating this age group only increases the tendency to form groups such as this clique that bullied this vulnerable woman. When the kids hurl the statement that people kill themselves to stay away from the woman, it's enough to make you sick. I don't know if they knew her son had committed suicide some years ago or not. If they knew it, they are more depraved than they seem on the surface.
Good, strong middle school teachers have a special place in heaven - the teachers who either put a stop to the bullying tendencies of that age group, or the teachers who protect and help the bullied children learn to love themselves enough where they are so they can withstand and overcome the bullying. As I said before, I hated middle school. Kids are mean simply because they are going through a hormonally and socially imbalanced time.
AND finally, if the parents of these children don't take action now and change the direction where these kids are headed, what an awful future we'll all have.

Kathleen Yasas said...

Middle school is a tough time, without a doubt. However, when we were in middle school I don't recall being a bully, or in fact getting bullied much. Our school was set up K-6, and then 7-8, and then high school. We had hormones, too, and I didn't feel the need to take that out on others. As for saying these types of things to an adult...it makes my skin crawl now to think about it. Teachers had power then, adults had power. A village raised this child and I understood that if I smart-mouthed an adult -- forget about swearing or saying the vile things these kids said -- I would be punished. Severely. Parents were in charge at home, teachers were in charge and given power by parents at school, bus drivers were in charge on the bus, adults ran the show and we followed their rules or we were sorry. I was poked and prodded and guided through the cattle gate until I was smart enough to figure out how to behave as a human being. I'll say it again: something is terribly wrong.

tell me said...

Relentless and viciously aggressive. Wall Street style.
Let's face it, this could be a scene from the latest Hollywood comedy.

beat your children , well.... said...

"I Will Shit in Your Mouth" t-shirts are available here:
http://www.horrormerch.com/i-will-shit-in-your-mouth.html

You think Islam is at odds with Christianity? I think they are at odds with some other aspects of Western culture, and the forceful spread of it through greed and military supremacy. This lady is one of the few people who chose NOT to "fight terror with terror".

do the right thing said...

Here's how it should work: When the monsters start touching her, the offense becomes assault. The monitor reports to the driver, the driver pulls over and dials 911. The police come, handcuff the accused, and remove them from the bus.

do the right thing said...

Thugs on public transport are exactly what this lady faced. Do you think she should have pushed them further to see if they had knives or articles to bludgeon her with? Bus monitors should have cell phones and the authority to (speed) dial 911. Then all that she has to do is put her finger on the button and say "sit down and be quiet." She is a monitor, not a law enforcement agent. Criminal activity on the bus? 911.

Kathleen Yasas said...

Dear Do The Right Thing: Yes, it should work that way. However it doesn't. The bus would have stopped, the cops would have come, the kids would have been hauled away for a few hours, there would be no consequences because parents would pick the kids up (middle-schoolers now), maybe yell at them, maybe not (one father on the news said he hadn't punished his son, that "the death threats are punishment enough"), and the kids would have a fun memory of torturing somebody on the bus when all this cools down. And when they rob a store at 17 and there are no consequences, maybe they'll graduate to a bank or your house or mine; or maybe they'll just beat a dog to death for the fun of it. Or a kid. Yes, the right thing is to call the police. But the right thing is also to teach them now that when you poke a bear sometimes you get bitten.

As for beat our children's comment about terrorism........whatever.

beat your children , well.... said...

Whatever? "Something is terribly wrong", but the rest of the world should consider us political and cultural icons? Wave your flag. Whatever.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm confused. What does terror, Islam, Christianity and military supremacy have to do with the content of the blog??? Or did I miss something?

Kathleen Yasas said...

No, you didn't miss anything. There are just some folks to relate all things to terrorism, U.S. military supremacy, the evils of Western culture, and so on. I guess my desire to smack a kid for bald disrespect means I'm a flag-waving American terrorist who wants to take over the world.

beat your children , well.... said...

This is a story about terrorism, in the U.S., with comments about fundamental problems with Western culture. A steady diet of mainstream American culture had everything to do with the behavior exhibited on this bus. Aggression, selfishness, violence and idiocy. If it is too great a leap for you to consider that terror, Islam, Christianity and a world at war might merit comment in this context, you are part of the problem. You are indeed confused, and you are certainly missing something.

Anonymous said...

Dear "beat your children..." I don't believe for ONE minute that the steady diet of mainstream American culture had everything to do with the behavior exhibited on this bus, as you opine. I, too, raised children who were exposed to mainstream American culture, and they don't bully, they are polite and well-mannered. Perhaps the children on the bus were simply following in the footsteps of those who raised them - if you are raised by loving, caring adults, most will turn out the same. And if you are raised by bigots and bullys, well guess what? Your children will reflect what they have been exposed to on a daily basis. As for my being confused and missing something, well, "beat your children" I assumed (incorrectly as it turns out) that I might have missed some other comment that would make sense out of your "out of the blue" raving about terrorism. And yes, it is too great a leap for me to consider that a world war is going to break out because of horrible behavior by horrible children on a bus. Obviously, you must believe that behavior cannot be changed for the better. I pity you. Not everything that happens will lead to terrorism and the end of the world. What a sad existance you must lead to believe the worst of everyone and that the end is constantly near.

Proud to be an American said...

I agree with Anonymous, and shall take this one step further - are you, "Beat etc." an American? Were you raised on a steady diet of American culture? If yes, then perhaps we should be worried about YOU! Perhaps you, too, are a bully or a terrorist-in-training.

Kathleen Yasas said...

This is not a story about terrorism. This is a story about a right of passage all kids go through -- bullying -- that has gone haywire because parents have put the screws to teachers and other adults about disciplining their children. Many parents have decided only they can punish children for bad behavior, thereby strangling the ability of adults who should have the power to do so. I wasn't only raised by a mother and father. I was raised by an older sister and aunts and uncles and cousins and teachers who understood they were all in charge of making sure I didn't act like an animal when my animal instincts came out. Yes, there's something wrong with our culture that parents coddle children and don't jerk them into line when they should. I believe the pendulum will swing back to center at some point, and certainly do not believe that this incident is indicative of the decline of the Western civilization. All Americans and those in the western world are not selfish, aggressive, violent idiots, and it's a shame you think so. I am not a part of the problem. My concern about this issue means I'm part of the solution, pal.

What a pity you're too frightened to identify yourself. I'd like to know: are you perhaps a sociology professor? A government official? A religious leader? You spout alleged knowledge about "fundamental problems with Western culture" and "terror, Islam, Christianity and a world at war." Or are you just a guy sitting at home clicking the light switch on and off, sputtering about a country in which you don't participate? If you're an American, feel free to hop on a plane and pitch your tent someplace else. And if you're not an American, I beg you to stay where you are. We have enough problems to solve in this great country (insert flag waving) without people like you muddying the waters by calling undisciplined children on a bus terrorists.

beat your children , well.... said...

Terror is a tactic. Those who terrorize are terrorists. I am not a guy, and Mohammed Atta also believed bad behavior could be changed for the better.

beat your children , well.... said...

I said the world was at war, not that a world war was pending, and by the way, you too are spouting about fundamental problems with American culture, without any of the credentials you suggest might be appropriate.

beat your children , well.... said...

Great country, pfft.

beat your children , well.... said...

How many stand up comics are now millionaires for spewing trash no less ugly than these kids did? How many movie stars? "HILARIOUSLY IRREVERENT! DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!" People buy this language and laugh at it, emulate it, put it on shirts, and show it to their kids. Their kids join the Army and take it to Afghanistan. Or Iraq....the true home of the 9/11 terrorists. We kicked their asses for that didn't we? I can tell that 2+2 is a leap for y'all.

No Name for Fear "beat your children, well" might object said...

It appears that someone's "hot" button was pushed.

the beat goes on said...

OMG - beat is a bully! beat just said everyone was stupid. can't add 2 and 2.

Kathleen Yasas said...

Beat, you've gone off the rails. And I'm pretty sure I don't need credentials to comment on kids bullying people. A brain will do. I'm not making a psychological assessment here. You, on the other hand, are carrying on about war and government and military supremacy and...for the love of god...9-11?? As for your "not being a guy," I ain't buyin'.

Have a glass of wine and settle down.

beat your children , well.... said...

have a glass of wine and connect the dots for a change

Anonymous said...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-18656095

The link above is from the BBC - the story has gone international, and the students have been suspended from school for a year. They will attend an alternative school and also, they are banned from taking the bus for the year as well.

beat your children , well.... said...

oh, no....banned from the school bus! They must be mortified.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum