What If Your Kid Were on That Hell Bus?
Last week, a kid’s camera phone recorded a 68-year-old grandmother and school bus monitor being brutally trash-talked by a group of middle school boys riding the bus in Greece, a town in upstate New York. They called her horrible names, strafed her liberally with f-bombs, and generally bared their fangs at her like that pack of feral dogs in The Hunger Games. They even poked her trying to get a reaction, like you’d do to an animal to see if it was alive. But she just sat there and took it.
Toward the end of the 10-minute ordeal, one kid asked her why her face was wet — was she sweating because she was so fat? So quietly she could hardly be heard, she said, “I’m crying.” Of course the Youtube video went viral (I’m not going to provide a link to it, it’s just too ugly; you can look it up if you want: “Making the School Bus Monitor Cry”)
My first reaction was shocked disbelief and disgust that young American kids, among the most privileged in the world, could be so viciously heartless. But when I started reading some media response I started seething.
Someone on Slate went deep, rationalizing that the kids’ cruelty had little to do with the cowering grandma under attack, and yes, so much more to do with the dynamics of adolescent groups. Poor kids, they were the victims – of mob mentality. What a typical dodge. Of course it was all about Klein: the kids were very specific in dragging her personal life into their vile attacks. Some of the most cruel were their taunts that Klein had no family because her son had committed suicide. One kid likely headed for juvie even crowed, “If I stabbed you in the stomac h it would go through you like butter.” Yes, a privileged middle school male actually said that; as far as I know, he isn’t being prosecuted by the police, either.
Another columnist said that Karen Klein should give the $15,506 she makes as a bus monitor back to the good people of Greece, N.Y. because she was clearly incapable of performing her monitoring job duties. Yow. Maybe the school board should sue Mrs. Klein to get the money back if she doesn’t volunteer. This guy is a writer for the Bill Maher show, so no real surprise there. Did he even watch this horrific video? Or has he undergone a soul bypass? Why do I get the feeling he could have been one of the kids on that bus? Maybe because he also said that though she’s a “nice lady” and the things they said to her were horrible, “that’s okay, because she says her hearing aid doesn’t work that well.”
On the other side of the compassion spectrum, a fund was set up to at least make an effort to compensate this woman somehow for the brutal verbal beating she suffered. Sympathetic, caring people in just a few days contributed well over a half-million dollars for her use. Which may be a valuable lesson for the nasty bullies: you may think you’re the king of the dunghill, but goodness will triumph and your victim may end up on top in a big way. “The meek shall inherit the earth” comes to mind, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
It also seems that some of the teen savages’ families have been targeted for threats, even death threats. A few of them, maybe in an attempt at rehabilitation, have released “statements” of apology to Mrs. Klein. And a local TV camera trailed the dad of one of the tormentors as he went to Klein’s little house to apologize for his son. He said he was heartbroken when he saw the video, and he would seek professional help for his kid. The dad’s emotion seemed genuine until he mentioned that his family has been “harassed unbelievably” since the video went viral. Oh, really.
He and Mrs. Klein hugged.
He told her, “I’m sorry.”
She replied, “You didn’t do it.”
NO, he didn’t do it. So why was he the one apologizing? And why didn’t he bring his son to apologize as well? Why did the other kids’ parents allow them to issue statements as if they were public relations firms, rather than drag them by the ear over to Mrs. Klein’s house, kick them in their sorry butts so they fell on their faces in the dirt before her, and beg her forgiveness?
What’s the matter with kids today? Their parents don’t hold them accountable. They don’t require them to do their homework; teacher friends tell me the students reject assignments, just refusing to do them. They aren’t allowed to experience the real-life consequences of their bad behavior. Most parents aren’t just helicopter parents, they’re rescue helicopter parents. More often than not, if the kid gets a bad grade the parent yells at the teacher, not their precious offspring. This is the discipline problem at the rotten root of the entire public school system. Nothing works when there’s no respect for authority. And then you get the hell bus.
Though Mrs. Klein has said she won’t press charges and doesn’t want the kids expelled from school, (is even she an enabler, rescuing them from consequences due?) she has suggested that perhaps they should be banned from riding the bus and from team sports for at least a year.
What would you do if your kid were one of the tormentors on that bus? What do you think would be a just punishment? Indentured servitude to Mrs. Klein for the rest of their Saturdays? Forced to wear their clothes inside out? And of course that i-pod? Into the blender.
By the way, Mrs. Klein plans to donate much of her new-found wealth to Down Syndrome and autism charities.
Joy Overbeck is an award-winning journalist who blogs about happier things at her fun God website, www.godsayshi.org — please visit and comment!
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