Karen The Bus Monitor

I was home last week to help one of my sisters post-surgery.  My family lives in Greece, a suburb of Rochester, NY.  I graduated from Greece Arcadia and have nieces and nephews who attend Arcadia and Athena.  My last night home (6/29) we were all together and I asked everyone what they thought about the bullying incident with the bus monitor from Greece Athena.  Our conversation really surprised me!

The first surprising thing is how personal it got.  One sister’s BFF since childhood (basically another sister) worked at Arcadia in the main office this year and actually fielded calls from people (peeps in ROC know the difference between the schools, but people calling from around the country didn’t know and didn’t care).  She said people were very rude and nasty.  Apparently the group Anonymous sent death threats.  (Dude, threatening to kill someone over bullying is bullying to the 100th degree, isn’t it?)  My other sister was involved with the Greece Athena Middle School PTA this past year.  She has a disabled grandson attending Athena, so she joined the PTA to smooth the way for him (and others in wheelchairs) to receive the best mainstream education possible.  She was in the hospital when the story broke and received 1300 emails in one day.  And some people knew the kids or parents.  So it wasn’t an ideological discussion; it got very personal, very quickly.  My perspective was global; bullying is a major problem now and the amount of money donated to that vacation fund tells just how much the video struck a chord.

The second surprise was the amount of anger around the event, the large sum of money donated, and the role social media played, which was accompanied by an underlying embarrassment.  After listening I said, “The core issue has nothing to do with Karen Klein.  She didn’t do it, video it, post it, or create the vacation account.  The money doesn’t matter.  The issue is that the kids didn’t have a sense that it was wrong; someone actually videoed it and posted it online!  Don’t they have a conscience telling them what’s right and wrong?”

Which lead to the third surprise:  “Oh, come on, Kar, don’t you remember bullying in middle school?”  Actually, I don’t.  Walked to school K – 6 and took the bus 7 – 12.  Sat in the first half of the bus and if I wasn’t talking to someone, I had my nose in a book.  (Pretty much had my nose in a book whenever possible from eight to seventeen.)  And I was always one of the tallest kids in class until high school.  I probably got teased more at home!  So no, I don’t remember bullying at school.  Thank God!  But the “I don’t condone it, but middle schoolers will be middle schoolers” attitude riled me.

When my 20 yr. old nephew came home with two friends, I asked, “Dudes, what do you think about the bus monitor situation?”  His 19 yr. old friend replied, “Really? Still?”  I was surprised he was as ‘over it’ as the adults were!  “Seriously, I want to know what you think:  Is this typical ‘middle school bullying?'”  The 21 yr. old friend replied, “I was a real turd in middle school, but I never would have done that.”  The consensus from the teens/newly twenties was it was unacceptable and not what they experienced in middle school.

Clearly bullying is not just a Greece Athena problem!  Ever watch Glee?  My BFF in Denver has a very talented son who didn’t act in any plays one year because of bullying.  Someone from Rochester tweeted this Bob Lonsberry blog post from a parent; also with the comment he couldn’t believe this was still in the news.  (Clearly everyone in the ROC just wants it to go away!)  Here’s a teacher’s response; easy to spot the divide in perspectives.

Regarding Karen Klein, I read she complained as a bus driver to the district about bullies and nothing changed.  It was very close to the last day of school.  Who knows if she heard everything the kids said; the article linked to her name above indicates she has hearing problems.  Or she could have acted as a decoy.  I don’t know why she just sat there.  It would be very appropriate for her to donate some of the ~$700K she’ll receive to Greece Athena Middle School for an anti-bullying program ($100K?) and to speak once a year.  That would be giving back after receiving so generously while doing something positive for the school and kids.

Why is bullying such a big issue now?  Who’s responsible?  How can we fix it?  Potential solutions:

Parents:  Have to set expectations with their kids they will show respect to everyone, teach behavioral boundaries and teach tolerance.  Kids don’t have to like or trust everyone, but they have to show everyone respect regardless of differences.

Schools / Principals:  Have to issue a Code of Conduct (rules of behavior) that get reviewed with all students at the beginning of each school year, to which they sign and are held accountable.  Need to consider hiring security guards for buildings and buses.

Teachers, Counselors, Bus Drivers (adults who work for the school district and interact with students):  Have to report any students who do not follow the established code of conduct.  Simply put, the adults have to protect all students, plain and simple.

Students:  Have to stand up for themselves and others and tell people if they are being bullied or witness it.

No matter when you went to school, bullying is different now and has increased teen suicide rates.  Everyone must fight it … because it could be your child.  This story out of Japan (who’s been portrayed as infinitely more respectful and disciplined than U.S.) should shake you out of any remaining lethargy.

What do you think?  Have you talked to your kids about bullying?


3 Comments on “Karen The Bus Monitor”

  1. Cindy says:

    Parents and teachers can do things to a point. But you have to have kids who are willing to stand up for themselves and their friends, as well as willing to call out their own friends if they are being the bullies. My son, who I will admit is a bit larger than his peers, is known as the “defender” in school. He will jump in front to protect his friends, but will also call out his own friends if they start picking on someone else. He also knows that if things “get serious” to send someone to get a teacher. It’s sort of a combination of “the golden rule” and standing up for what’s right.

    • Karen Baglin says:

      Hi Cindy, Thanks for your comment! I agree; kids do need to stand up for themselves and others … as well as call out their own friends if they’re bullying. Glad to hear that your son isn’t afraid to do just that!

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