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Bus Monitor Bullied by Middle Schoolers: Is An Apology Enough?

Posted by Elisabeth Wilkins

This week, a video was posted online of 68-year-old school bus monitor Karen Klein in Greece, N.Y., being bullied and verbally abused by middle schoolers. They called her fat, ugly, and swore at her repeatedly. The worst part? One of the kids said that she was so ugly her kids would rather be dead than look at her. 10 years ago, Klein’s son committed suicide.

The level of verbal abuse, bullying and disrespect has reached new heights in our society. How could these children have possibly thought it was okay to treat this elderly woman this way? Many commenters have asked what these 11- and 12-year-old kids’ parents have been teaching them. Reportedly, a father of one of the children has visited Klein and apologized, expressing his disappointment in his son’s behavior. Some of the children other children have apologized to Klein publicly, but she said that she hasn’t received any letters personally yet. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but is it enough?

How do you teach empathy to a gang of young kids acting like thugs? When interviewed on Anderson Cooper’s show, Klein maintained that they were not “bad kids deep down” but that when they were together, they tried to impress each other.  What does she think should happen to them? Klein suggested that they should be banned from the bus and from playing sports for a year, and she thought that community service also sounded like a good idea. At this point, she said she is not planning to file any criminal charges against them.

It has also been reported that some of the boys have received death threats over their behavior. There are times when I fear we are moving backward as a society rather than forward; away from compassion and kindness and toward something darker and more brutal.

The silver lining to this story is that an internet fund has raised over 500,000 (and counting) for Klein. I think the outpouring of support speaks to both the fact that people feel an overwhelming sense of compassion for the elderly bus monitor, and also to the fact that people are tired of all the bullying and disrespect that we see around us every day.

What does it say about our society if kids think it’s fine to verbally abuse an adult, much less a senior citizen who could be their grandmother? What would you do if your child was involved in something like this? And what do you think should happen to these kids? Is an apology enough?


About Elisabeth Wilkins

Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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