It's hard to watch the video of middle school bus monitor Karen Klein being bullied by a crew of nasty kids and not get angry. Like many Americans, the imagery of a 68-year-old Klein brought to tears by their disgusting taunts sent me hurtling back in time to my own days in the torture chamber that is a bus ride when you're the bullies' favorite target. But folks, angry isn't going to fix this.
Death threats aren't going to fix this. Let me repeat that. Death threats are being hurled at a bunch of 11- and 12-year-old children. Because as cruel and vile as these kids were acting, every bully on that Athena Middle School bus is just that. A child. And the bullies who have taken over the conversation about what happened to Karen Klein do more to explain how this horrific incident happened in the first place than they do to fix it.
It doesn't take a whole lot of digging into kids' psyches to understand that kid bullies pick up their bad behavior from somewhere. And that somewhere is the adults who role model poor attitudes. So what happens when adults respond to a bunch of middle schoolers bullying their bus monitor with more bullying?
The bad behavior is multiplied tenfold. This hurts the kids in Greece, New York, but it goes much further. Thanks to the cruel people on the Internet, kids around the nation are getting the message that the best way to react to a bad situation is with anger, threats ... essentially with MORE bullying.
There are no lessons learned, no positives, at least not for society. Sure, some of the kids have apologized to the bus monitor, as they should. I'm glad to hear that their parents and the school district seem to be taking this whole incident seriously.
But let's remember, these are just kids. Even Klein herself said she wanted an apology but did not think they were bad kids, at least not deep down. She doesn't even want to press charges against the middle school bullies, despite the fact that they dredged up the pain of her child's suicide.
This doesn't excuse their actions. But it does put them in the proper light. Remember when you were a kid and you did something stupid? You learned more from some firm discipline from a calm, collected parent than from someone screaming in your face, didn't you? These middle schoolers need to see someone acting like the "bigger person," rather than sinking to their level if they're going to unlearn their bad habits.
We have a chance here to teach the kids on that bus, and kids around the world, that the kind of verbal abuse delivered on Karen Klein is not acceptable. We can't make what happened to her go away -- no matter how much money we throw at her -- but we can catch kids while they're still young, while their minds are still pliable, and teach them how to treat one another.
But as long as we approach these kids with anger and vitriol, they aren't getting that message. We are just creating more bullies.
Take a look at some of the aftermath of this story:
What is your response to the kids on that bus? What would you like to say to them?