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Internet rallies to support abused elderly bus monitor
June 21, 2012 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Summarized on Storify: "A shocking video of middle schoolers verbally abusing a poorly-paid, hearing-impaired grandmother of eight hired to keep them safe on the school bus went viral on Wednesday. " Sympathy and donations have come in from around the world, and Reddit users have complained to the school district and started a thread that's helped to raise $150,000+ so far.
posted by deern the headlice (279 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love reddit, and wish I had some money to pinch in to buy this lady a drink.

I don’t understand how people raise children to do/say things like that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:07 AM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Dear Bullies:

Okay, let's break this down for you.

You were mean to her and you got nothing.

She wasn't mean and total strangers gave her several thousand dollars.

So how's that bullying stuff working out for ya?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:08 AM on June 21, 2012 [74 favorites]


Yeah I could only watch about 30 seconds of that video and had to stop. It was too upsetting. How do people become so sociopathic?
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:11 AM on June 21, 2012


Junior high kids are the absolute worst. By high school, some rudimentary empathy is starting to develop. But in junior high, they're old enough to figure out what hurts, and not old enough to know why you shouldn't do it.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:12 AM on June 21, 2012 [57 favorites]


Yeah because middle school kids invented meanness. So we're going to fundraise independently to relieve one bus monitor at a time? Boy, that'll show those bad kids, and their underemployed parents, and their overcommitted teachers...
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:13 AM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


You were mean to her and you got nothing.

This is the thing that really gets me about this situation. I get what you get out of bullying other kids; you get someone who is below you on a pecking order you care about, but why would you bully some poor grandmother? It's not like you're peers, and no one thinks you're cool for being cooler than an old lady. I mean, maybe they do, but that's not how I remember middle school working. That's even with the acknowledgment that middle school is the absolute worst time in anyone's life for being an asshole for no reason.

I'm also glad I followed this story a bit on reddit because, as always, Storify has broken my brain.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:14 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah I could only watch about 30 seconds of that video and had to stop. It was too upsetting. How do people become so sociopathic?

What's unusual about the video is seeing this behaviour directed at an adult. This kind of behaviour is extremely common among children of this age.
posted by atrazine at 8:15 AM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


While I'm glad this nice woman is being given overwhelming community support, it's not clear to me why fundraising on that scale is necessary, or even useful in this situation. Am I missing something?
posted by ocherdraco at 8:15 AM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


> Am I missing something?

Well, I think the original intent by an individual was to rack up 5 grand to send the lady on vacation. It seems that reddit simply amplified that.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:16 AM on June 21, 2012


While I'm glad this nice woman is being given overwhelming community support, it's not clear to me why fundraising on that scale is necessary, or even useful in this situation. Am I missing something?
posted by ocherdraco at 10:15 AM on June 21 [+] [!]


At this point, she will have enough money to retire, and she will feel reaffirmed in her basic faith in humanity.

That's worth it to me. I donated.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:17 AM on June 21, 2012 [49 favorites]


Yeah because middle school kids invented meanness.

Of course they didn't invent it.
Middle schoolers, though, raise meanness to Dream Team levels of play, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:17 AM on June 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


I think the original intent by an individual was to rack up 5 grand to send the lady on vacation

Well, that certainly makes more sense. I hope the very large amount of money doesn't cause her more trouble than it saves.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:20 AM on June 21, 2012


The key thing I saw in this when it was going around yesterday was seeing a quote from her saying, to paraphrase "I thought if I ignored them they would stop. They didn't stop." Might an adult refuting one of the key messages of anti-bullying advice make people realize that you can't ignore this problem away?
posted by yellowbinder at 8:21 AM on June 21, 2012 [97 favorites]


It just keeps getting worse, what I thought was bad at one minute was tame by minute 9.
posted by nile_red at 8:21 AM on June 21, 2012


What's unusual about the video is seeing this behaviour directed at an adult. This kind of behaviour is extremely common among children of this age.

Yup. I remember being this age and being bullied. I considered talking to the driver, but I saw that he was elderly, hearing-impaired, had no teeth, and most likely poorly paid, and I realized that it wouldn't do any good.
posted by Melismata at 8:21 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


That seems like the kind of lady who'll probably go back to work and use that money for good cause.

Give her more money, we need good people with too much money on their hands to offset all the sleezy ones.
posted by roboton666 at 8:21 AM on June 21, 2012


These kids show mankind in its raw state. We learn to mask our barbarism as we get older. Our whole "civilization" is based on this kind of group savagery.
posted by No Robots at 8:21 AM on June 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'll watch any horror film, but I couldn't watch this.
posted by eugenen at 8:22 AM on June 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


While I'm glad this nice woman is being given overwhelming community support, it's not clear to me why fundraising on that scale is necessary, or even useful in this situation. Am I missing something?

They wanted to give her a vacation. She had said on Facebook she was struggling for money and struggling in general.

Raising money works twofold: it lets an abused person know that people have her back, and by making her sympathetic story the focus, it takes power away from the bullies. It seems less about money and more about spotlighting an injustice.
posted by deern the headlice at 8:23 AM on June 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


MrBobaFett: "Yeah I could only watch about 30 seconds of that video and had to stop. It was too upsetting. How do people become so sociopathic?"

uh, that's just how people are. Labeling it as "sociopathy" makes it seem abnormal, when that could not be further from the truth. As undesirable as it is, this is merely the natural consequence of the environment and social consequences that these children, and this woman, reside in.
posted by rebent at 8:24 AM on June 21, 2012 [16 favorites]


but why would you bully some poor grandmother?

Because they are an adult with nominal power over you? Because adults have told you what to do all your life and told you not to talk back and here you are on the way to a school which is an institution in which you will be told what to do all day by adults and you're going there against your will?
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:25 AM on June 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


Everyone of those fucking brats and their parents should be put on national TV and made to answer to the world for what they did.
posted by jonmc at 8:25 AM on June 21, 2012 [47 favorites]


My oldest son just turned 10, and this kind of thing makes my stomach ache. I can't imagine my sweet and polite boy potentially doing something like this in a couple of years. I don't believe he will, and we're doing all we can to raise him to be the kind of person that would step in and say something in a situation like this. But my god ... that is such a scary age, with so much darkness in it.

And the school bus itself is such a terrifying thing. It's kids of that age, physically kept in a confined space for a period of time, and the only adult in the "room" is preoccupied and probably low paid and just wants to drop the little shits off. (At least that's been our experience, and our school system doesn't use bus monitors. I hadn't even heard that that was a thing until seeing this.)
posted by jbickers at 8:25 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jesus. By the end I there was a good couple of minutes that I wanted some of the money to go towards bonuses for any cop that arrests one of those little fuckers and throws them (and any parent that objects) into solitary confinement for a couple days.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:26 AM on June 21, 2012


I get what you get out of bullying other kids; you get someone who is below you on a pecking order you care about, but why would you bully some poor grandmother?

You get attention.

I remember two instances of a crowd heckling an adult from high school. Both of them continued over many days. The kids involved weren't horrible people, just bored and wanting to change the script.

One way to reduce this behavior is to have the kids involved in an activity of interest to them. Of course that's not always an option, sometimes a kid just needs to get with the program, bored or not. If the adult in charge can't or won't discipline, there's no way to stop it. And in this instance, discipline means remove them from the bus.
posted by BigSky at 8:26 AM on June 21, 2012


Do these kids not have grandparents
posted by MangyCarface at 8:26 AM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's interesting, to me, how collective action in person - as in, on the bus - suppresses humans' ability to feel empathy. But here on the detached, antisocial internet, separated from the action by a screen but linked to each other, we feel it so very acutely.

Such strange creatures we are.
posted by bicyclefish at 8:26 AM on June 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


Yesterday I heard Eric Deggans, a commentator on NPR, make a good point about bullying: it's considered de rigueur in reality tv. We tell kids not to do it and let them watch adults doing it all the time. and don't get me started on how war is just another form of bullying.
posted by mareli at 8:26 AM on June 21, 2012 [51 favorites]


Dear Parent-

You child has been featured in a recent viral video as being a not-yet-complete member of the human race. Therefore, the School Board has concluded that until your child is a full fledged Human Being, they will not longer be eligible to ride the bus. We understand this may cause you some inconvenience as you will be required to drive your spawn to school yourselves, but you should have thought of that before unleashing your half-formed creation on the world.

We understand that you may wish to overturn this ban. A Probationary License of Basic Humanity may be granted to your child upon the completion of 250 hours of community service at a local nursing home, a full written letter of apology delivered and read in person to the victim, and consenting to wear a bright orange vest reading 'WARNING: DINGLEWEED' for the rest of the semester.

If you wish to contest this ban that is your right, but please remember School Boards are notoriously leaky organizations and most colleges search the Internet for all instances of applicant's names when considering admission applications.

yrs
The School Board
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:27 AM on June 21, 2012 [96 favorites]


Lord of the Fleas, in twenty-minute episodes. You can thank our children's steadily diminishing attention spans that it doesn't last any longer.

Okay, sure, put them in a pit and feed them dead rodents with a slingshot. No...ah crap, they're just kids. Wait til they grow up and then shoot them. No...

Ah, crap. They are us.
posted by mule98J at 8:33 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


From a follow-up thread at Reddit:
I watched one interview, and she said one of the saddest things I've ever heard.

"My daughter heard something that wasn't good. It was something about me being so fat and ugly your kids probably should commit suicide. I don't think they knew that my son had."

She deserves all the fucking money in the world just for having to take that.
Amen.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:34 AM on June 21, 2012 [36 favorites]


Did none of you read Lord of the Flies?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:34 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


oh yeah, preview. oops.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:35 AM on June 21, 2012


I know we're not supposed to use corporal punishment in this enlightened era, but my god, those bullies need to have the **** kicked out of them in front of their peers to teach them a good lesson.
posted by gen at 8:35 AM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


These kids show mankind in its raw state

Pretty much. Kids are animals.

This is why it's so important to start military service as early as possible. The older they get, the less effective they are. Terror Squads should be composed of individuals no older than 16 with a unit average age of 14, although individual unit commanders may be up to 18 years of age, and Group Leaders may be up to 21 years of age if they have completed five years of service prior to promotion.

These rules do not apply to Drug Infantry, which may be of any age or physical condition as long as their mandatory drug infusor is operational. If the infusor fails in combat the closest Terror Squad member is authorized to determine if it is necessary to terminate the affected Drug Infantry unit or if infusor repair is feasible under field conditions.
posted by aramaic at 8:35 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


If the adult in charge can't or won't discipline, there's no way to stop it. And in this instance, discipline means remove them from the bus.
Why aren't some of those little shits walking to school today? If it's too far to walk, that's their worry not the school's.
posted by Jehan at 8:36 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a kid who was bullied through both middle school and high school, I think perhaps I am too close to this situation.

And I think I am perhaps too close to this situation because my natural reaction, as a 31 year old man of some not insubstantial strength, in the prime of my very life, was to take each one of these kids, strap them to a table, and punch them repeatedly in the face.

Obviously, this is horrible. They have yet to develop empathy. They are not fully in control of themselves. They're children. I am the one who should have empathy and realize that they are not yet fully developed and so not fully responsible.

But I want to smash their stupid faces. Fuck faces.
posted by kbanas at 8:37 AM on June 21, 2012 [19 favorites]


Of course, if we did implement my suggestion, their fucking parents would complain that someone's mistreating their precious little larvae.

I don't claim to have been any kind of saint when I was a kid, but I remember that insulting or abusing anyone's mother or grandmother was automatic grounds for an asskicking by the entire family.
posted by jonmc at 8:39 AM on June 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


I was bullied and tortured physically, mentally, emotionally as a kid in this age group by my peers and teachers, but even I find these kids to be extreme.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:39 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Were I the superintendent, I'd ride that bus every morning, with the following rules:"

1. Assigned seating, by alphabetical order.
2. Utter silence.
3. A daily essay of one hundred words on one of the following topics: compassion, kindness, humility, remorse, or respect. To be turned in as required for admission to the bus.

Any student who violated any of the above rules three times would lose their bus privileges for one week.
posted by DWRoelands at 8:40 AM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


If these kids only knew how privileged they are to have a school to go to, to have a bus to take them to that school, to have an adult to 'monitor' them on the bus. So many children in this world have none of those things.
posted by gen at 8:40 AM on June 21, 2012 [15 favorites]


Kids are animals.

aramaic, I am saying that mankind is savage. These kids just haven't learn to conceal that fact, yet.

Listen, I taught middle school. I have only one suggestion for improving this situation: shut down the public school system.
posted by No Robots at 8:41 AM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


The parents of these kids should be ashamed of themselves.
posted by spitbull at 8:41 AM on June 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


Jesus, I read a couple of comments and decided I'd watch the whole thing, but I stopped at about 50 seconds.

I mean I got the point pretty quickly and I don't really think I need another 9 minutes of pointless hate in my life.

Donated. Absolutely.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:42 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


> to have a bus to take them to that schoo

Surprisingly, the school bus system(s) in the US are pretty much unrivaled in the rest of the world. I suppose a lot of that is due to spotty public transportation, but it's still quite an achievement.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:42 AM on June 21, 2012


Oh, and make them all walk to school for the remaining very hot days of this year. And pick up any litter they pass. With their parents.
posted by spitbull at 8:42 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Accentuating the positive:

Karen, I do not claim to know what all of the words on your purse mean. But I think I know what they mean to you. And I do not think you are fat, or poor, or ugly.

You are rich in all the ways that matter. And you are beautiful.

posted by jbickers at 8:43 AM on June 21, 2012


It would be awesome if we could not plot elaborate revenge fantasies for these kids, which really amounts to bullying them right back.

Everyone always learns the wrong lesson from the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Shock Study: we always think it means that other people are horrible. We ignore the possibility that we might be horrible, too, given the right circumstances.

All pubescent boys and girls are potentially sociopathic for the simple reason that their brains are not yet fully formed. You'd do the same thing if nature turned off your capacity for empathy and then society placed you in a setting where peers led you to believe that you should bully or be bullied.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:43 AM on June 21, 2012 [58 favorites]


Kids learn to be mean to senior citizens because they're learning it from adults. Oh sure, we don't verbally abuse the elderly in this way. But plenty of us keep them out of the spotlight as much as possible, ignore every word they say, ship them away to retirement homes with horrible living conditions so they're someone else's problem, etc. Many countries just take it for granted that you have to take care of your elders in the same way that they took care of you when you were a child, even if it means sacrificing some of your desires to do so. I'd be curious if middle schoolers in those countries behave in this same vicious way.
posted by naju at 8:43 AM on June 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


Don't shut the school system, kill the television instead. Children are not born bullies.
posted by mareli at 8:45 AM on June 21, 2012


This is why it's so important to start military service as early as possible. The older they get, the less effective they are. Terror Squads should be composed of individuals no older than 16 with a unit average age of 14, although individual unit commanders may be up to 18 years of age, and Group Leaders may be up to 21 years of age if they have completed five years of service prior to promotion.

Kony 2012!
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:48 AM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


My grandmother passed away last year. I didn't know her very well, but she looked a lot like Mrs. Klein. She, too, couldn't hear very well, and had some health issues. I hope she never had to deal with anything like this. I am sniffling, a little, right now.

I hope they go on the best freaking cruise on the entire planet, and I hope this money will allow her some space and some peace.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:50 AM on June 21, 2012


Why aren't some of those little shits walking to school today? If it's too far to walk, that's their worry not the school's.

I suspect it has something to do with their "rights".

-----

It would be awesome if we could not plot elaborate revenge fantasies for these kids, which really amounts to bullying them right back.

While I agree it's a rather immature indulgence, it's also an unreasonable request on your part. The desire for revenge underlies our idea of justice.
posted by BigSky at 8:51 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holy.... beyond words how awful that is.

I'm a bit comforted by the fact that, had I been there at that age in my life, there's no doubt I would have come out swinging on those little shits. I'm more distraught and disturbed that no one actually did.

People can explain away why this occurred (lack of empathy, not being fully developed adults yet, etc etc) but, honestly, they caused willful and distinct harm to another human being who, unless there's facts I'm not aware of, deserved nothing but their respect.

The pain should be brought. I hope grandma buys them all something nice and then has hired thugs around the corner show up and take it away from them. Bah, I'm getting all crotchety here.. *exit stage left*
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:51 AM on June 21, 2012


If these kids only knew how privileged they are to have a school to go to, to have a bus to take them to that school, to have an adult to 'monitor' them on the bus.

Yeah, it probably wouldn't help if they did...guilting a kid into trying to do something they don't like doesn't make much sense to them. Tell them that some other kid would be thrilled to have this odious thing they've got, and their reaction is usually "well, let them have it, then, I don't want it!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


We shouldn't go all Scarlet Letter on these kids, and our society in general has a weird, unhealthy way of taking out its frustration on people who generally don't deserve it. When we do come down on people who deserve punishment, we do so through Kafkaesque bureaucracy that only occasionally punishes people for what they should be punished for, but consistently in a manner that guarantees future harm for our society.

I would enjoy seeing these kids in some sort of acute distress, with full knowledge that the emotional or physical discomfort they were feeling was a direct result of their violation of basic human decency and someone else's right to exist without abuse—but most of the ideas I've consumed in my life indicate that hurting these kids (via shunning, such as in small religious communities, or ASBOs in the UK, or whatever) wouldn't solve anything and would do harm to my own humanity.

Which is really frustrating, because they really deserve it. It's hard being an adult, and even harder to realize that I have absolutely no idea how their future behavior can be effectively modified.
posted by jsturgill at 8:51 AM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


She said the comment that hurt the most was when the kids said "you're so ugly your kid should kill themselves." Her son took his life 10 years ago.

*sigh*
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:54 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's this thing about the internet. It shows you everything, from the very best of humanity to the very worst.

I was recently browsing imgur looking for a picture I thought I had seen there recently, but instead stumbled upon the "all time best" photos on the site, and frankly was a bit surprised to see some of the most heart-touching, most human moments captured grouped near the top. There is a basic goodness in most people's souls that causes them to be touched by these things.

Of course, a lot of the people on imgur are the target demographic for video game manufacturers, and we all know from recent video gamer discussions round these parts what those type of people are known for when something like their collective misogyny gets dragged into the lime light for a few minutes. There is a basic evil in most people's souls that while not prevalent in most, is still germane to the masses, and sooner or later it causes many of us to stumble in one way or another. In this way, I can't think of myself as above these kids, as much as I want to decry what they are doing.

I play video games. I don't go batshit on the internet when people point out how horrible women are treated in the video game corners of the world, but then I also don't go batshit when someone throws around the C-word on an online game. I'm completely desensitized to it, on the one hand. On the other, its not a word that ever really enters my own vocabulary.

Because of the internet, I know that this kind of thing - these kids on this bus behaving the way that they are - this is out there, somewhere. What's more, I can make the pretty safe assumption that A) these aren't the only kids doing stuff like this, and B) our generation isn't the first to reach these extremes.

This is just raw humanity, and we can be shocked and appalled by it but not pretend it is new. The internet is just making this, and the kid who's dad wired him for preschool, and the autistic girl being beaten by a judge, a bit more visible to all of us than they used to be 10 years ago.

I honestly wonder whether our new-fangled technology will, in the end, change much at all. Maybe it will hold a few more people accountable, but in the end I think that the human capacity for evil is just ALMOST as boundless as the human capacity for good. There will be people who find their ways around the technology, this kind of thing will still happen to someone somewhere. Or worse.

I have my own beliefs about what will make all of this right in the end, about a balancing force in the cosmos, if you will. But I'm not sure how people who don't have something like that to pin their hopes on can mentally get their heads around it.

For my part I'm quickly getting tired of the Internet exposing these parts of humanity to me. I know they're there, and maybe its for the best that I have to deal with it. But it is tiring.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:58 AM on June 21, 2012


It is not sociopathic to expect these kids to face serious consequences. That's how their prepubescent brains will acquire some self-control, since their parents seem unable to accomplish this at home.
posted by spitbull at 8:59 AM on June 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


I saw this this morning and was completely horrified, but also a little confused. My understanding was that one of the purposes of bus monitors was to maintain order on the bus. Was there no kind of discipline policy or procedure for when kids are violating the rules of proper conduct on the bus? Why wasn't the bus monitor on the horn to the dispatcher to resolve the discipline problem?
posted by drlith at 9:00 AM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ugh. That video brought up *way* to many painful memories. In elementary school I was a fairly well liked kid but something switched in middle school and I became a total punching bag. I recall one bus ride home where the kids escalated their taunts and insults just like in this video. One particularly horrifying accusation was that I masturbated my mother with raw hotdogs (seriously, where do they come up with this stuff?). Afterwards they chased me off the bus, snatched my ball-cap and when I just barely made it into my house and locked the door, they proceeded to light the cap on fire in my driveway.

The amount of complacency in this sort of behavior by adults was (and is) appalling. I had internalized "turn the other cheek" to a fault. At one point I was in the middle of shop class when a group of kids started hitting and kicking me, hard. It turned out I had a "kick-me" sign taped to the back of my chair. The shop teacher's response: "Lucas, stop being such a dumbass.". On another occasion I was so taunted and abused in the locker room that kids actually stole my glasses, broke them and put them in the toilet. After that my parents contacted the gym teacher to have him intervene in the future. His response? On the next day as I was changing he called out across the locker room: "Hey, Lucas. Aren't you supposed to be over here so I can watch you and make sure you're not picked on?" The truly epic example is when a group of kids cornered me in-between a set of double doors and pumulled me for a good couple minutes before I managed to break through and run to the office. There, they called everyone into a big room and asked questions. One kid pointed out that he too had gotten injured - durring the altercation I had raised my arm to protect my face and he had hit my watch, scratching his hand. Since the district had just implemented a "no exceptions" discipline policy and an assault was defined as when one person was injured but a fight was when both parties were injured we *all* got in-school suspension. Together. In the same room. And my parent's response to this: nothing.

I felt seriously depressed and helpless through all this but there were two things that saved me: a single good friend, and an aging 286 with an orange-on-black monitor that I used to connect to citatel bultin board systems via 2600 baud modem. In that day, computing provided a respite from the abuse: only nerds and adults would be on a BBS. I can't imagine the world today, where online communities would only extend the taunting.

But here's the kicker - I wasn't better than any of those kids. Given the chance I would have gladly put anyone down just for the chance to no longer be at the absolute bottom of the pecking order. One day there was boy with an earring in one ear. I seized my chance to start a pile-on on the bus. But it didn't happen: the 8th grader behind him stood up for him and put me in my place.

Years later, in high-school, one of the kids who chased me off the bus that day became a casual "at school" friend. No mention was ever made, but he wasn't an asshole anymore.

From all this I learned a few things:
1) Appealing to authority is often a worthless enterprise.
2) The danger of fale equivalence.
3) My parents didn't know everything or always do the right thing. (Shocking, I know but at 10 it was news to me).
4) One should honestly try not to judge. Those kids weren't particularity evil or cruel: they were just middle schoolers who were lucky enough not to be despised.
5) Every single piece of parental advise about bullies is 100% bullshit: ignore them, they are just insecure, ask a teacher to help, stand up for yourself. All bullshit platitudes.

Really, expecting kids in this situation to solve their own problem is insane. Adults need to step in and act.

Sorry for the derail. Like I said, that video brought up a lot of stuff I haven't thought about in decades. As to this case, it's interesting to see what a mob mentality can do. I feel deeply sorry for this woman. Sure, 100k+ to one person isn't going to stop bullying, it isn't even going to teach these kids a lesson. But so what? We don't always spend money in the maximally optimal way to solve the world's problems. Good for them and good for her.
posted by lucasks at 9:00 AM on June 21, 2012 [44 favorites]


this was sad enough but when i got to the comment where someone said the kids were saying she was so fat her kids should commit suicide and it turns out her son did...jesus christ. i can't even watch the video.

they don't even know what they're saying and that's the worst part. they think it's a funny thing and i don't think they even have any idea or understanding what death or suicide is because they're so young.

i don't even know how you teach that. i feel like these kids are going to grow up and be the kind of people other people need to have therapy and askme in order to deal with (like someone on askme recently who has a MIL that kicked her cat and then made of fun of her for comforting the wrong cat. i can see that MIL being one of these kids.)
posted by sio42 at 9:03 AM on June 21, 2012


From the last link:

“It's scary getting all this attention,” Klein says.

Maybe the internet should rally a little less and leave her alone for a while.
posted by amarynth at 9:03 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bullying and brutality have always existed but the differences that I notice are these: the level of intensity and meanness is waaay higher these days, when I was a kid there were certain things that even for the worst bullies were beyond the pale to say. But these days we live in a culture that treats this stuff like a game. Two, the fact that people are making videos this and uploading it for all to see (there are lots of them, including a sickening one of two boys beating a homeless man in NJ. The community rallied to the mans aid, commendably) which shows both a lack of brains and a lack of shame.
posted by jonmc at 9:04 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


On CNN this morning, the reporter mentioned that the children involved were being identified and that the matter had been turned over to the local police. Anyone know what they could be charged with? Is bullying a crime yet (as it should be) in most jurisdictions?

I would hope, in the very very least, that the offenders' bus-riding days are over, from now until they graduate. Since the bus is school property, I would think that suspension would be in order. It fucking better be, and not the fun kind of you-can't-come-to-school suspension, but the shitty kind: in-school suspension. I never understood why ISS was always considered a less severe punishment than out of school suspension. You're going to get hollered at by your parents either way; at least with OSS you don't have to sit in silence with a teacher who really doesn't want to be there looking over your shoulder all day long. I received ISS in middle school (called junior high in my neck of the woods) a few times and it was absolutely torturous. You weren't even allowed to read non-curriculum material, even after you'd finished your schoolwork. You were expected to sit there in total silence and watch the clock. I distinctly remember having a Vonnegut novel confiscated after I lied to the teacher and said it was for class. He actually checked with my English teacher and figured it out. Great detective work there, pal, and even greater "teaching".
posted by item at 9:06 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


ask a teacher for help

That one still cracks me up, to this very day. Talk about misunderstanding the parameters of the problem...
posted by aramaic at 9:06 AM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


(and in case anyone is wondering, if I'm remembering correctly I believe I received ISS that time for calling my band teacher a bitch. In my defense, she was being a total bitch, implying in front of the class that I sold drugs to my fellow students because she'd seen me smoking a cigarette outside a local mall. Kind of big stretch there.)
posted by item at 9:10 AM on June 21, 2012


If these kids only knew how privileged they are to have a school to go to, to have a bus to take them to that school, to have an adult to 'monitor' them on the bus. So many children in this world have none of those things.

That will be less of an issue soon thanks to rapidly shrinking education budgets forcing school districts to reduce or eliminate bus service altogether.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:10 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't shut the school system, kill the television instead. Children are not born bullies.

While I would normally agree about killing the TV, there were plenty of bullies before the 20th century.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:11 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was a very similar video that went viral earlier this month of a middle school punk verbally attacking his school bus driver. That was also horrific. I just don't remember this level of hate being directed at adults when I as a kid of that age (1970's). We did some pretty terrible things to our peers, but when we crossed that line and went for the adults there was hell to pay with very serious consequences. Will there be real consequences here? Or will the parents defend their little brats?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:11 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, I teach education and this is one of the districts in which our candidates student teach.
Also, I am teaching a pop culture class right now, and we just finished discussing Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulations. Our conversations up to now had been about the decline of luxury goods, where the idea of luxury superseded the quality, blah blah, but one student this morning asked if perhaps these kids on the bus did not behave they way they did in part because the idea of bullying in this manner isn't really real to them; it is in fact simulation. If everything is valuable and nothing is valuable at the same time, why would this matter.
If this is true, this is really bad. We have spent years and years in some sections of educations saying, no of course kids can tell the difference between [TV, videogames] and reality.
posted by oflinkey at 9:14 AM on June 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


People are not savages. This is not normal. Children can learn that their actions have hurt someone else, and be made to feel remorseful for it, without beating them or kicking them off the bus or expelling them or whatever. This must not be normalized, and it must not be met with disproportion.

1) Let the parents know there is a problem. Some parents wouldn't give a crap, most would be mortified and ground the kid with extra chores for a few weeks.

2) Explain very clearly to the kids what they did was a very big deal, and very wrong.

3) Reinforce this with meaningful consequences - not insanely martinet or vengeful, but meaningful. The above suggestion that kids have to sit alphabetically is a good permanent consequence, as is a few days of saturday detention during the summer, where they get to write essays on manners and civility and on their own actions.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:14 AM on June 21, 2012 [14 favorites]


Is bullying a crime yet (as it should be) in most jurisdictions?

What now? You want to insert kids who clearly can't comprehend the consequences of their actions into the criminal justice system? Throw the little fucker in juvie and see how they like being bullied?

I can't think of a worse way to handle bullying. All you're doing is showing the bully that they just need to be bigger.
posted by Talez at 9:15 AM on June 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


While I agree it's a rather immature indulgence, it's also an unreasonable request on your part. The desire for revenge underlies our idea of justice.

When that idea of justice, carried out to its logical conclusion, has led to the modern American penal system, one wonders whether it's not possibly flawed. I understand the social and paychological impulse to revenge, but it is an impulse primarily motivated by a desire to hurt, not by a desire for the guilty to be hurt.


"Third Citizen
Your name, sir, truly.

CINNA THE POET
Truly, my name is Cinna.

First Citizen
Tear him to pieces; he's a conspirator.

CINNA THE POET
I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet.

Fourth Citizen
Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses.

CINNA THE POET
I am not Cinna the conspirator.

Fourth Citizen
It is no matter, his name's Cinna; pluck but his
name out of his heart, and turn him going."
posted by howfar at 9:17 AM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I saw this this morning and was completely horrified, but also a little confused. My understanding was that one of the purposes of bus monitors was to maintain order on the bus. Was there no kind of discipline policy or procedure for when kids are violating the rules of proper conduct on the bus? Why wasn't the bus monitor on the horn to the dispatcher to resolve the discipline problem?

Yeah, this. The YouTube tags say last day of school, but still. The bus monitor's job and the driver's include the responsibility to keep order, for everyone's safety. They could have called dispatch and had the ringleaders removed and brought back to school for parent pickup, or they could have brought the whole bus load back, for that matter. The phones would be confiscated and video footage examined to determine responsibility, and those involved would lose bus privileges. In my district, discipline suspensions incurred at the end of the school year are served at the beginning of the following year - goes a long way toward cutting down on crap like this on the last day.
Finally, most middle school teachers of my acquaintance have had a class gang up on them in a similar fashion. That's why we're the adults in the room. Teachers get training to learn how to put down these insurrections, and I'm sure bus personnel get something. Otherwise I wouldn't see bus suspensions in my kids' files. Yes, the kids behaved abominably to the old lady. But the adults on the bus weren't doing their job. The last day of school can't have been their first day running a bus. The phones should have been confiscated until the bus reached their stop, dispatch or the school should have been called to remove the worst actors, and suspensions should be meted out liberally. Bullying by children happens because adults let it.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:17 AM on June 21, 2012 [19 favorites]


Bullying by children happens because adults let it.

Quoted for god-damn gold-plated motherfucking King-Kong-sized TRUTH.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on June 21, 2012 [38 favorites]


This doesn't happen in a vacuum. Kids have heard and seen this behavior, either at home, from peers, in movies or on television and seen it accepted. Virtually everywhere you look there are fat-hatred comments, faux concern (and some real concern for obesity) as well as misogynistic politicians and performers. Most of the remarks are clearly about making fat people feel unworthy to live.

Even the health campaign of the First Lady stirs up some blame and shame against people who are fat. The Surgeon General, Vice-Admiral Regina Benjamin, is and has been conspicuously absent from the promotion of that campaign and I wonder if it is because she is deemed not to be thin enough. She is a doctor from Alabama who has done extraordinary work among the neediest people in her area. She has diabetes and still keeps herself in excellent health. She would be called at least somewhat fat by almost any standards.

Even if middle school children are little savages (and I know they are sometimes) they have heard of this language and behavior and absorbed it from our culture. How many homes are completely free of expressions of fat-hatred? Of violence? One kid kept mentioning pulling out his knife and describing what he would do with it. Also asked for her address so he could come and defile her home.

Many people do not know how their children behave away from their presence and there are parents who teach their children that it is a dog-eat-dog world and the goal is to come out on top. These messages are heard and acted upon. The ringleaders in middle school will not outgrow this without intervention. I don't think the answer is cruelty to those children for I believe children do what you show them how to do.

I wish we would teach emotional intelligence in schools. It can be done. Here is an example from Japan NHK.
posted by Anitanola at 9:24 AM on June 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


One of the local news reports answers my question:

Greece police Capt. Steve Chatterton said that if criminal charges were filed, it would likely be in Family Court because the youths involved are juveniles. Chatterton said that some potentially serious charges would require that Klein had felt threatened. Klein said Wednesday that she did not feel threatened by the students.

Interesting bit from the same report:

She said she didn't hear all of the taunting while it was happening because she is hearing impaired.

Also, the kids' names are being posted all over the internet, including in the description of the original video. Here's hoping they're correct.
posted by item at 9:24 AM on June 21, 2012


Bullying by children happens because adults let it.

Requoted for the same reason.

But despite me understanding earlier points on the impact of current pop culture, it has been happening long before reality TV was possible.

Somebody was treated like this almost every day when I was in junior high and high school. It was a different somebody, and very rarely an adult, but it happened all the time.

As awful as this is, I only wish I'd lived some place where it was so shocking.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:24 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just don't remember this level of hate being directed at adults when I as a kid of that age (1970's).

I do - mostly it was directed at low-status adults, especially school janitors and, memorably where I grew up, the neighborhood weirdo. The bus drivers were all tough blue-collar ladies, and would not hesitate to park the bus until we all sat down and shut up, and if they had to radio into dispatch about you, you were so in trouble the next day. Detention, cleaning the blackboards, writing "I will not be rude to the bus driver" a hundred times, etc. Once, a kid was taken off the bus by the school principle for cursing up a storm, and driven to school, where he called the parents while he sat there in his office.

I think we're seeing the results of kids in general acting better than they have in the past - kids today are more socialized and educated at a very early age, thanks to pre-school. When things do break down, the mechanisms and practices to put a stop to it - stopping the bus, the radio, calling the parents and handing out detention - are a lost art.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:26 AM on June 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


I couldn't watch that. I've spent the past 27 years working with THOSE kids, the kids that are most wanted OUT of the school, off the bus, off the playground.

The problem??? the problem is that, even though there are more and more of these kids (due, I believe, to the crumbling social infrastructure, exhausted and beaten down parents, poverty, and hopelessness), two weeks ago our community shut down the ONLY friggin' program in the county providing an education for those kids because it was all about the money.

As was said above, "adults let it" happen. As a society we just don't give a shit about these kids.... It's one thing for the internet to respond.. what was the response in the community where it happened, have they stepped up to say, "Whoh, shit... this stuff is bad, let's spend a couple of bucks for an infrastructure that teaches kids and keeps everyone safe... !!! " Somehow, I sort of doubt that's what happened.
posted by HuronBob at 9:27 AM on June 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


Speaking of bullying, my son (we'll call him K) is in Grade 4 and he's a pretty popular kid, generally because of his sweet nature and cheerfulness.

K has a friend, though (we'll call him N), who's having a tougher time. He's the child of immigrants and he acts a little goofy. Sometimes the other kids in class pick on him a little, and he cries.

What really gets me is the teacher's response: she scold's N in front to the class for crying. "Why are you crying? You should grow up a little! Get a thicker skin!"

Perhaps it's a good message, but to say it in front of the other kids is just a crime.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:30 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Over $200k now. Excellent.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:30 AM on June 21, 2012


Talez: What now? You want to insert kids who clearly can't comprehend the consequences of their actions into the criminal justice system? Throw the little fucker in juvie and see how they like being bullied?

I can't think of a worse way to handle bullying. All you're doing is showing the bully that they just need to be bigger.


Jesus. Calm down. I didn't say that traditional bullying should bring adult criminal charges, ever. But children convicted of bullying and sentenced to community service and counseling might go a long way towards deterring the acts from happening or curtailing repeat instances.
posted by item at 9:31 AM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would walk home from middle school, and my route paralleled one of the bus routes. Without fail, a bus would pass me at a certain point, and as it went by the kids on the bus would shout, hurl insults, and make rude gestures towards me. It was so bad, I ended up timing my journey such that I could quickly dart into a nearby park and hide behind a hedge when the bus passed.

On field trips in middle school, there was always a contingent of students who would make it a game of trying to get a reaction out of drivers in other cars.

Middle school students are psychopaths.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:36 AM on June 21, 2012


When that idea of justice, carried out to its logical conclusion, has led to the modern American penal system, one wonders whether it's not possibly flawed. I understand the social and paychological impulse to revenge, but it is an impulse primarily motivated by a desire to hurt, not by a desire for the guilty to be hurt.

No, this isn't true. If you're going to quote plays, read The Oresteia. The desire for the guilty to be hurt is always the foundation of a justice system.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:45 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


This actually jibes with my middle school experience. One of my teachers around then was the older lady sort, kind of like in the video, and one day the wolves just turned on her and broke her will. She just left the classroom in tears and never came back. While the video was rough, it also made me go "Oh yeah, I remember this from riding on the bus."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:47 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Getting stuff on video points out how creepy and awful humans can be.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:49 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Grade 8 for me was basically like The River's Edge (but no dead girl). Just a brutal, terrifying environment.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:50 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Middle school students are psychopaths.
I deleted the snarky response to this... could we just agree not to paint groups with such a broad brush?
posted by HuronBob at 9:50 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everyone of those fucking brats and their parents should be put on national TV and made to answer to the world for what they did.

but they wouldn't have an answer. they'd just mumble an "I dunno." Or maybe if they were being real honest, "Because everybody else was doing it."

I'm with the folks in this thread who are saying, this is reality, face it, we've all got monsters inside of us and they're far less contained when we're moving through puberty, even in the "good kids" (I believe Freud would concur). Which isn't to say, don't do anything. But it is to say, this is not abnormal, borderline behavior for 12-14 year olds. It's normal. Whatever normal means.

One of my best friends when was I maybe eleven/twelve had moments of brutal bullying in him, and it was often premeditated. He'd talk to me on the way to school about the fresh insults he'd dreamed up for some doofus kid he had it in for (and they were brutal). Why didn't I do something about it? He was bigger than me. And I was a new kid in that school, and he was pretty much my only friend at that point, certainly the first of the popular kids to be even remotely nice to me. In fact, he was very generous, always looking out for me, guiding me through the various snakes and ladders of the schoolyard and beyond.

But he never invited me home. Turns out, his dad was dying slowly of some brutal cancer and his mom had gone archly religious in the wake of it. And so on. Like every other human I've ever bothered to get to know, it turns out he had a back story that went a long way toward explaining his actions and attitudes.

Long story/short -- as we grew older (later teens now), he got increasingly violent. I increasingly avoided him. Finally, one day he picked on the wrong guy (black belt in something or other) and he got the shit kicked out of him. Broken nose and jaw, lost a few teeth -- the kind of injuries that couldn't be hidden, that he had to wear on his face for months.

That changed him. He grew because of it. The violence was gone or certainly had found less negative channels. Now, more than thirty years later, we remain very good friends. And more to the point, I don't think I know of anyone who has more friends than he does, who is more loved. Because he's loyal, generous, sensitive, fun to be around -- the antithesis of a bully. And he's got a great family -- two beautiful kids who are now approaching the age we were when we met.

I wonder how things will go for them.
posted by philip-random at 9:50 AM on June 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


Could you imagine the Internet Fallout if another kid on the bus stood up and asked the bullies to lay off? Their college education would be paid for by now. I understand why they didn't - in middle school justgetby keepyourheaddown justgetby is a guiding mantra - but still...
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:52 AM on June 21, 2012


I can't bring myself to watch the video, but are they all boys?
posted by desjardins at 9:53 AM on June 21, 2012


This is a heart-warming resolution. I hope all that money actually makes it to Ms. Klein and that she is able to retire.

This somewhat similar video (of a horrible little kid taunting a school bus driver) was posted on MeFi a few weeks ago by gnomechompsky (the post was deleted).
posted by allnamesaretaken at 9:53 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The desire for the guilty to be hurt is always the foundation of a justice system.

All this means is that our so-called justice system is masked savagery.

If you're going to quote plays, read The Oresteia.

Another Greek saw things differently:
[T]o harm any person is the act of the unjust, and the just man will not harm another, because by doing so the just man will prove himself the opposite of what he claims to be. This was the first time in European philosophy the idea that a man should not harm others, even his enemies, had been declared.--"Socrates: the Search of Justice" by J. Davis.
posted by No Robots at 9:54 AM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, I see Seymour Zamboni already mentioned that in this thread.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 9:55 AM on June 21, 2012


I think we're seeing the results of kids in general acting better than they have in the past - kids today are more socialized and educated at a very early age, thanks to pre-school. When things do break down, the mechanisms and practices to put a stop to it - stopping the bus, the radio, calling the parents and handing out detention - are a lost art.

I think that's a really interesting, valid point -- because after thinking about this some more after my earlier comment, I came back in here to say that, though the video is not surprising based on MY middle school experience, my experience with kids of that age lately -- which is daily as I live down the street from a high school and pass large groups as they come from the train or get off the (public transportation) bus -- is almost always surprisingly charming. They're rambunctious and hormonal and loud and probably obnoxious by most people's standards, but always polite when they notice they're in my way -- which is most of the time (and I'm amused or annoyed by this depending more on my mood than their actions).

I think the idea raised earlier by gen -- about not realizing how privileged they are to have a bus to take them to school at all -- is right on the money when comparing the two groups.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:57 AM on June 21, 2012


I can't bring myself to watch the video, but are they all boys?

The names listed look like boy names, but the voices don't sound male. Then again, I didn't sound very male in middle school either.

Redditors have given her a nice bonus, but what happens when 4chan 14 year olds decide to make her a target?
posted by DigDoug at 9:57 AM on June 21, 2012


> what happens when 4chan 14 year olds decide to make her a target?

She'll have more dildos and gay porn piling up on her doorstep than she'll ever be able to get through?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:00 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually, according to the Storify link, 4chan made the kids the target, for a while, which I don't really approve of either (though can't get very worked up about)

Weirdly, that does seem more like I understand 4chan these days (which, admittedly, is fairly removed ) Maybe it's just me but it does seem that 4chan has weirdly mellowed out once it became something to which the rest of the world occasionally paid attention. But that's probably a discussion for another time and could very, very likely be something I'm very wrong about.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:01 AM on June 21, 2012


Couldn't watch past 30 seconds - she looks too much like my late grandma. Which in turn makes me think about how I would react if somebody did this to my grandma. Which in turn makes me realize that I am not yet a serene and tranquil person (god, for a moment I wanted to punch one of these junior high school students in the face). So instead I donated.
posted by jason says at 10:02 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Middle school students are swamped with hormones, overwhelmed by peer pressure and inadequately supervised. We don't put enough into making sure every adult is properly instructed in keeping the kids from letting their nasty little ids run wild.

This was my first year in a renaissance school (90+ percent free/reduced lunch) and I got handled pretty badly (not physically) in class this year on a couple of occasions. Once my kids saw they'd upset me, they tried very hard to make me cry. I had to step back then and hand out some consequences: some timeouts, some detentions - something to snap them back. They expected this, and were relieved when it happened. I had let the class get out of control, and it was my job to pull it back together, not theirs. We all felt better when I figured out how to demand they behave respectfully.

Some of the kids who gave me the most brutal roasting this year told me on the last day, with all sincerity, that they'd miss me. Kids want to feel safe, and know what their role is. When adults don't do their jobs, it leaves a frightening void. We need more adults on the job, in all respects.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:02 AM on June 21, 2012 [16 favorites]


I also really, really enjoyed teaching middle school. I never had any problems, and had a lot of fun as a teacher. But I was really careful to quickly diffuse situations in class that would lead to bullying.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:05 AM on June 21, 2012


Brings to mind Lord of the Flies. Kids need a parental spanking and detention. Used to be Bus Drivers were charged with controling the kids. Why have a Monitor if they can not do the job? Last thing on Earth that is needed would be a Resource Officer on the bus. They don't belong in schools. Anti-bullying and hate laws are ineffective and are totally a matter of prespective.
posted by Jondo at 10:08 AM on June 21, 2012


It's great that some people do well in teaching, and that some people are working effectively at improving the social conditions in schools. But none of that should make the kind of behaviour under discussion here appear any less common than it is.
posted by No Robots at 10:10 AM on June 21, 2012


I assume this is why so many other species eat their young.
posted by elizardbits at 10:14 AM on June 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


Maybe it's just me but it does seem that 4chan has weirdly mellowed out once it became something to which the rest of the world occasionally paid attention.

That's good to hear. The handful of times I've tried to visit, I ended up bleaching my eyeballs every 20 mouseclicks. Just to be safe.
posted by DigDoug at 10:15 AM on June 21, 2012


Actually, according to the Storify link, 4chan made the kids the target,

Viewing 4chan as a coordinated community is a misread of 4chan. Some members of 4chan have made the kids a target. Others may at some point have nasty fun with the monitor. Others will post disturbing gore and call others summerfags. Eventually, someone will post some kiddyporn and the thread will go 404.
posted by philip-random at 10:18 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


For everyone who says "kids are just like this" . . . no. No they are not. By the time a child is two, they are old enough to learn basic respect and kindness. My five-year-old regularly stands up for kids who are being picked on. "Stop saying hurting words! She is sad and needs a hug!"

Kids grow up to be this way when they are raised in an environment that teaches them that they have to get as much as they can get away with -- that it's important to be on top, that you DESERVE to be on top. Kids internalize the values that they see demonstrated by their families, and they apply those values in unexpected ways. When Dad brings home a TV and remarks offhandedly and with glee that it's bigger than his friend's, kids learn from that. When Mom makes nice to a person to their face but then later snarks privately about that person's clothes or grooming, kids learn from that. When parents slag off on each other with cruel and unkind words, kids sooooo learn from that.

Kids learn much more and much more quickly from the implicit values demonstrated by their parents, their family, and their churches and community then they do from the explicit values that are spoken to them by those same people. It's why my 19 month old already knows how to use a smartphone. I tell my kids to be nice and gentle to the cat, but I also shove that same cat off my lap in irritation when I'm trying to get something done, and guess what: the kids learn that it's OK to shove the cat, even if you know you should be nice to him. The way to raise kind, helpful, empathetic and honest children is to surround them with kind, helpful, empathetic and honest adults, and that is easier said than done.
posted by KathrynT at 10:24 AM on June 21, 2012 [27 favorites]


There's a live press conference going on now on CNN.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:33 AM on June 21, 2012


Yesterday I heard Eric Deggans, a commentator on NPR, make a good point about bullying: it's considered de rigueur in reality tv. We tell kids not to do it and let them watch adults doing it all the time. and don't get me started on how war is just another form of bullying.

Temple Grandin recently made the same point. We're supposed to teach kids to be compassionate and the highest rated shows have adults not only eliminating the weakest performers, but also forming alliances in order to do it.

I'm not going to go off on a bender about how TV is the root of all evil... it isn't. However, it's not helping the situation. The problem is not television, but the parents fobbing off their parental responsibilities onto an inanimate audio/video device.

Ultimately, these little bastards to a certain extent, and their parents to a great extent, are responsible for their behavior and the consequences should be piled firmly on their shoulders.
posted by prepmonkey at 10:33 AM on June 21, 2012


I am sure the parents of those kids must feel angry and violated on account of their kid's malice being plastered all over the internet and their kids being called beasts all over the internet. I know that a parent's duty is to circle the wagons, protect the child, love it unconditionally. But the only way to love or protect a child who has done something that malicious and been called out publicly over it is to ensure the child never intentionally behaves that hatefully ever again in his life. Then you, the parent, get that Mythical Village involved in ensuring that your child never intentionally behaves that hatefully toward another human being again.

I was never treated that way. I never treated another person that way. Not that I wasn't mean to kids lower in the pecking order than I was, not that I did not make fun of that one substitute teacher's hair. But I was constantly afraid that someone higher in the order would force me to confront my behavior and that kept me from ever being so purely malicious.

I knew that I would be required to explain my behavior if I was cruel. I would be expected to internalize it and understand what it meant about the sort of person I was and whether that matched with the sort of person I wanted to be. When I was caught being unkind, that's what happened to me--debriefing, basically. What specific actions did you do or words did you say? Why those words? Why that person? What did you hope to get out of it? What did come of it? Who behaves that way? Why would you want to behave that way?

Eventually, I got to be old enough and self-actualized enough to realize that fearing disapproval of my behavior from my own self was enough to keep me as kind as possible. Are people not raised to question their own actions?

I fail, a lot, but never on so spectacularly a level as these kids.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:34 AM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I fail, a lot, but never on so spectacularly a level as these kids.

Yeah, that raises the question, how often does this sort of thing (or worse) happen on school buses every day where there isn't someone recording it and putting it online?

I'm guessing a lot more than we'd like to admit. Better off not answered if one wants to maintain one's faith in humanity.

That also fits into the recent debates on a crowd-sourced panopticon society, but that's another post.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:39 AM on June 21, 2012


Ultimately, these little bastards to a certain extent, and their parents to a great extent, are responsible for their behavior and the consequences should be piled firmly on their shoulders.

And what about a culture that values aggression, fitness and dominance?
posted by No Robots at 10:40 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The cops confirmed that the person who was filming was also involved in the bullying.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:40 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


On CNN this morning, the reporter mentioned that the children involved were being identified and that the matter had been turned over to the local police. Anyone know what they could be charged with? Is bullying a crime yet (as it should be) in most jurisdictions?

My guess (as someone who writes regularly about crime in New York state): the kid(s) who touched her will be charged with harassment in the second degree, which is neither a felony nor a misdemeanor under the New York Penal Law. (It's just a violation.)

The ones who taunted her can be charged with harassment in the second degree or disorderly conduct.

I don't foresee any assault or menacing charges coming because the victim has to reasonably believe she could be harmed. I think most people in her position know kids aren't serious about causing physical injury when they say they are going to stab you and Big Macs are going to come out of your belly.
posted by bugmuncher at 10:41 AM on June 21, 2012


When that idea of justice, carried out to its logical conclusion, has led to the modern American penal system, one wonders whether it's not possibly flawed. I understand the social and paychological impulse to revenge, but it is an impulse primarily motivated by a desire to hurt, not by a desire for the guilty to be hurt.

The American penal is not the logical conclusion of this idea of justice. Other motives, namely deterrence and rehabilitation, play a role in the U.S. justice system, but that's besides the point. I agree that justice as retaliation is limited, but it plays a crucial role in creating our ideal and it underlies our passions when we witness someone or we ourselves are wronged. In its insistence for identifying and punishing the guilty, instead of wishing to effect some societal change like general deterrence, the desire for revenge also protects the innocent.

-----

All this means is that our so-called justice system is masked savagery.

I don't think that's the case, but there's certainly something to be said for the argument.

Another Greek saw things differently

There's so much irony in Plato that it's tough to make claims about the meaning of a single line in isolation. Socrates was a soldier for Athens in the Pelopenesian War, where he almost certainly looked to do other men harm, and yet Plato called him most just of men.

-----

People are not savages. This is not normal. Children can learn that their actions have hurt someone else, and be made to feel remorseful for it, without beating them or kicking them off the bus or expelling them or whatever. This must not be normalized, and it must not be met with disproportion.

That you make an argument for the ability of children to learn empathy when properly taught implies that a savage joy in cruelty is normal and natural. Other animals also torture.
posted by BigSky at 10:42 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


We're supposed to teach kids to be compassionate and the highest rated shows have adults not only eliminating the weakest performers, but also forming alliances in order to do it.

Yeah. So we teach them that even if you have been told those are the wrong values, it's OK to do it in order to win. Awesome!
posted by KathrynT at 10:43 AM on June 21, 2012


Because of New York's youthful offender statutes, accusatory instruments (such as appearance tickets or criminal complaints) for non-felonies must be filed as sealed instruments when the accused is "apparently eligible" for "Youthful Offender"status. But a judge is the only one who can order the accusatory instrument to be sealed. There may be a brief window where we actually get to find out what happened to each kid until the accusatory instruments make it to the court. And maybe the police will just release it anyway. But it's doubtful.
posted by bugmuncher at 10:44 AM on June 21, 2012


I feel very fortunate to be able to live about 9 months of the year outside the usa, mostly in so-called 3rd world countries.....God, how this country is going to hell.....this was sad, sick, and depressing...and I only watched 2 minutes.
posted by lometogo at 10:50 AM on June 21, 2012


God, how this country is going to hell

That's the thing -- it's always been this way. We just have way more people and way more media publicizing the bad stuff 24 hours a day.

Doesn't make it okay, nor does it excuse us as a society for our obvious failures. But we've always been this way.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:52 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


lometogo, the world can be a good place too - take a break and remind yourself thusly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:53 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Klein is not pressing criminal charges, says she wants school administration officials to pursue disciplinary action.
posted by hippybear at 10:55 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I was constantly afraid that someone higher in the order would force me to confront my behavior and that kept me from ever being so purely malicious.

You put your finger right on it, crush. If you can make it through the video, there's one kid, the one with the reedy voice who keeps calling Karen "fat". He's the instigator. He's the one the other kids are trying to impress. In that situation, he's at the top of the order and his actions are setting the standard for everyone else in that situation. Karen can't stop him. In fact, what's breathtaking about this is the way that he displaces her from her normal place of authority. He breaks her down, and in breaking her down, he elevates himself.

It's fucking brutal. It's fascism, really.

I was bullied terribly when I was a kid. The other night I couldn't sleep and was googling. We moved around a lot when I was in junior high, and I tracked down a bunch of people who I'd gone to grade school with. Eventually, I found my bully. Just seeing his face, smiling with a radiant, perfect kid on his shoulders, brought everything back. My hands were trembling as I snapped the laptop closed.

My dad was our sixth-grade teacher. At the height of my bullying, I was coming home from school every day a complete mess. It must have been terrifying for my parents. I cried constantly and when I didn't, I brutalized my younger brothers. My bully had an inner-circle of three other kids who were less smart than he was, but really eager to impress him. Then there was an outer circle of another 3 of us. The game was to rotate the scapegoat. You'd spend a few days on the inside and then in a heartbeat the pack would turn on you. You could scarcely stand up for yourself, since you'd be the victim of things you were gladly inflicting the day before. The transgressions that would shift the pecking order around were arbitrary.

At his wit's end one day in class, my dad lost it. He started screaming at the ringleader and his pals. "What is wrong with you kids? Do you sit at home at night thinking up mean things to say? Do you call each other and plan how to hurt people?" I was humiliated. I wanted him to stop talking. To disappear. As a father, I know now that he was trying to exert control over the situation and to normalize things. To advocate for me. But he stepped onto my bully's turf and, in doing so, he degraded himself. I just remember seeing the smirk on my bully's face that said he knew he'd won.

Anyway, this video brought all that back. Poor Karen. It was excruciating watching her try to stay at the top of the pecking order, knowing all the while that this other little fucker was setting the rules. She just wanted to be left alone. To make a little money, pay her bills, and get on with the business of living. But she's so far down the pecking order, she has to sit there and take it. Trying to crack jokes, to deflect, to make them stop without asserting herself in ways that will either humiliate her further, or get her fired.

I'm not a religious person. At all. But this used to be what Jesus was about: the idea that a person could be at the bottom of the pecking order and still be in control. That in your degradation and your bearing up under attack, you could be whole. That love and vulnerability were the things we all shared and that it was possible to use these to bind us together into a better, more decent community.

Our society has decided that women like Karen don't deserve a pension, healthcare, security or even dignity. We make them work. They stand at the door of Walmart in that stupid blue smock, or they stock shelves with hands that should be running through the soft hair of grandchildren. We make them worry at the end of a long life, not that the night will come, but that it won't come soon enough. That they will stand there, naked and alone, in the hard light of day and that people will see them. That reedy voiced little fucker knew in his bones that this was what Karen was: a loser. Someone you could brutalize without consequence. He knew because our society was already brutalizing her. Making her sit on a bus with middle-school kids for $15k/year is a far more fundamental bullying than anything a kid can say or do.

Sure, I gave her $20. Let her feel loved a little bit. Let other people in her situation feel for a moment that our fascist society isn't quite as bad as it looks. "Hey Karen," I wrote, "Just wanted you to know that you're beautiful."

Fuck 'em.
posted by R. Schlock at 11:05 AM on June 21, 2012 [48 favorites]


lucasks - In that day, computing provided a respite from the abuse: only nerds and adults would be on a BBS. I can't imagine the world today, where online communities would only extend the taunting.

A couple of friends of mine are high school (/comprehensive school) teachers, and say that this is absoutely true. Social sites (primarily Facebook, of course) mean that the social pressures of school -- to be seen to be popular, cool, tough, etc -- keep going 24/7, with no respite. Just because you're miles away from your peers doesn't mean that you can stop performing for them, or that their jibes can't reach you.

I have very mixed feelings when I hear about schools wanting to monitor and punish pupils' behaviour outside of school, but the constant connectivity means that there really is no line any more; the transition from in- to out-of school bullying is seamless, and there's really no escape without deleting your account and thereby committing complete social suicide. It's a weird space, too: this generation of high school parents finally understand facebook, for the most part, but they don't feel they can police the behaviour because, hey, trouble between pupils is the school's responsibility. But in addition to not *wanting* to be responsible for policing their pupils' bahaviour after the school day has ended, the schools can't demand to look at someone's FB account to see what actually happened, and risk catching all sorts of shit if they discipline a pupil for out-of-hours bullying and the parent decides to put up a fuss about it not being the school's business.

I was never bullied badly, but as a shy, nerdy kid with no interest in sports I had my share of days when I was relieved to get the hell out of there for a few hours' relief. Growing up in a world where all that crap can follow you home sounds like an absolute nightmare. I'd hate to be a teacher these days, and I fear for my hypothetical kids.
posted by metaBugs at 11:06 AM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I teach middle school, and looking at these kids as monsters gives any meaningful perspective on what happened. They're relatively powerless people stuck in a situation involuntarily going through their lives with the mindset which works the best for them as judged by a flawed sense of what "working the best" looks like, because, again, they're kids. I'd say it's a manifestation of The Dunning-Kruger Effect.

It doesn't mean that what they did was right, or that it wasn't extremely hurtful, it just means that you aren't going to get anywhere by making them walk to school or beating them up, because the more you take your anger out on them, the more they're going to use that anger to justify their own anger and disconnect from the world.

Things don't get to this point without a ton of failures on the parts of the adults who voluntarily placed themselves in positions of responsibility in these kids' lives, whether it's parents, the school, the police, the criminal justice system, or probably all of them, and then some. This behavior develops in increments without consequences, and without positive sources of self-esteem to conter-balance this sort of negativity.

It's just not going to turn out that these kids all come from stable homes with well-adjusted parents, a well-run school with a proactive and child-centered approach to bullying, no history of child abuse in their own lives, no undiagnosed mental health issues or learning disabilities, and no history of drug abuse or criminality among their first-degree relatives.
posted by alphanerd at 11:07 AM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


..."gives any no meaningful perspective"
posted by alphanerd at 11:08 AM on June 21, 2012


For everyone who says "kids are just like this" . . . no. No they are not. By the time a child is two, they are old enough to learn basic respect and kindness. My five-year-old regularly stands up for kids who are being picked on. "Stop saying hurting words! She is sad and needs a hug!"

Great. If the video was of a school bus full of 2-year-olds or 5-year-olds, you might have a point. The kids in the video are junior high kids, and no matter how much their community values Good Things, their peer group values Cracking Each Other Up and Saying Bad Things to Adults That They Would NEVER Say Around Their Own Parents.

Kids ARE just like this. Maybe not your kid, definitely not ALL kids, but the behavior seen in this video? That's Grade A middle school, childish behavior. I've never seen a bunch of adults just incessantly rag on a grandmother before.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:10 AM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


drlith: > Why wasn't the bus monitor on the horn to the dispatcher to resolve the discipline problem

Because the cushion in broken systems is often "sit back and take it." I mean seriously, people are expected to carry on with systems that don't work. I hate it.
posted by Listener at 11:10 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a situation like this where donations are flooding in, what safeguards are there to ensure the donations actually make it to Ms. Klein?

On the Storify page there's talk (if I'm reading it correctly) of a collection being taken up for the guy who started the collection for Klein, with that guy protesting "this is not a scam!" etc. It just made me wonder how it can be assured that the beneficiary gets all the funds intended for her.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 11:13 AM on June 21, 2012


That you make an argument for the ability of children to learn empathy when properly taught implies that a savage joy in cruelty is normal and natural.

No, simply that it exists. You're appealing to the mystic, but not thinking about the why or how of it. Cruelty and savagery and pack-hunting, which can be useful in predatory or semi-predatory animals like modern humans, can also be misapplied or indulged in out of proportion... this is not normal, and requires correction. Humans have the capacity for cruelty, but they also have the capacity for empathy and learning, and a strong instinct for adopting social mores.

Other animals also torture.

Other animals also masturbate in public, much like the sex offender down the block, what's your point?
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:14 AM on June 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


If you can make it through the video, there's one kid, the one with the reedy voice who keeps calling Karen "fat". He's the instigator. He's the one the other kids are trying to impress. In that situation, he's at the top of the order and his actions are setting the standard for everyone else in that situation.

And the messed up thing as that some or maybe even most of the kids probably hate themselves a little bit for participating, but the alternative is that the instigator might next turn his sights on them.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:18 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


All I want is for those kids to show up at school tomorrow, be taken into the assembly hall, brought onto the stage, and be made to explain why they did what they did.

The video should be played, of course, with a school administrator (the principal, perhaps, or the school guidance counselor) stopping it at key points: "Okay, now here's where so-and-so tells Ms. Klein that her kids should commit suicide. Did you know that her son actually did so a few years ago? Here's where such-and-such says she's fat and ugly. Note the consistent use of filthy language here, there are serial killers and rapists who don't talk like this", etc. .

This should all take place in front of the entire student body, and the administration, and the school board. And the people they're explaining it to are their parents, their grandparents, and Karen Klein.

And under NO circumstances are the kids allowed to hand their hands and give "I dunno" for an answer.

All of this broadcast on live television, and streamed on the Internet.

I really wanna see this. I really want to know why they did what they did. I want to know at what point, this could have possibly seemed like a good idea.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:19 AM on June 21, 2012


Great. If the video was of a school bus full of 2-year-olds or 5-year-olds, you might have a point. The kids in the video are junior high kids, and no matter how much their community values Good Things, their peer group values Cracking Each Other Up and Saying Bad Things to Adults That They Would NEVER Say Around Their Own Parents.

Yes, some of the worst enemies of doing-something-meaningful-about-bullying are the parents who simply can't imagine that their little darlings could be doing the bullying, because they were so good when they were younger. Shit changes when puberty hits. It's a fact. Go back a few centuries (or just park yourself in another more traditional/tribal culture) and you'd find that children of this age were/are compelled to go through some kind of manhood/womanhood ritual at this age, precisely because they're reaching the point where their actions could destroy the tribe. With power comes responsibility and all that ...
posted by philip-random at 11:21 AM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


"uh, that's just how people are. Labeling it as "sociopathy" makes it seem abnormal, when that could not be further from the truth. As undesirable as it is, this is merely the natural consequence of the environment and social consequences that these children, and this woman, reside in".
posted by rebent at 10:24 AM on June 21


Bullshit, that's just how ASSHOLES are. It's only normal if you are the Lord of the Flies. Natural consequence MY ASS. There are plenty of people raised in exactly the same circumstances that are polite, kind and loving. Those kids need proper parenting and a dose of reality and anyone who thinks it is a natch consequence of environment is a part of the problem.

In case you can't tell I was bullied and am still not over it at age 45. (and I shout a lot now that I'm too big to be bullied).
posted by HyperBlue at 11:23 AM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


That video is hard to watch. I was only mildly bullied in school, although as a poor foreign kid in a redneck white town, I probably should have been more of a target than I was. My brother, however, was beaten up on pretty much a regular basis, and I still remember how powerless I felt when that happened. Still, even then I could tell that those bullies were in a pretty bad place (literally, all dead or in jail now), and so I've let go of my bitterness.

I'm in my 30s now, and there are still moments when I get frustrated or angry or hurt and feel the impulse to be cruel and mean. As an adult, I have tools of dealing with negative emotions, but for those kids, with their rudimentary empathy and self-control skills, it must be incredibly hard. I don't think bullying them back is going to help with that.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:23 AM on June 21, 2012


Every time another bullying story is plastered all over the press, I reflect on the fact that I was never seriously the victim of bullys. I have no idea why, either, as I wore glasses, was uncoordinated, hated sports, and was a thin and weak loudmouth. Maybe it was that last quality that saved me from the bullys - I was a total and complete loudmouth. I'd tell people off without a moment's hesitation, and maybe that was what repelled bully behavior. I was really good at standing up for myself, somehow, now that I look back. It seldom phased me that I sucked at team sports or had rubber-band arms. It might have also helped that some of my grade school's biggest jocks were among my good friends, at least until I hit junior high and began my rebellious period, one that's a quarter century strong at this point.

Or maybe not.

Whatever the case, I don't know how I would've reacted had I been witness to an incident similar to this one involving my peers. I would like to think that I would've done something, anything, to make it stop, that I would've told the driver or sat next to the bus monitor and deflected the insults. There's no way to know just how I would have acted, of course, and I'm pretty certain there's several kids who were on that bus that day (and, according to news reports, all the other days this went on) who are wishing to all hell that they'd acted to make it stop. As has been repeated ad nauseum in this thread, Lord of the Flies. Lord of the Flies, Lord of the Flies, Lord of the motherfucking Flies.
posted by item at 11:24 AM on June 21, 2012


The woman should have been given a cellphone and a list of the parents' names and contact numbers to tell them and shame their parents into disciplining their kids.

If that would even work. Kids in my 7th grade class used to abuse subs but not with that level of meanness. There just need to be measures in place that punish staff abuse, even if these dipshits are kids.
posted by discopolo at 11:27 AM on June 21, 2012


I don't know why on earth we expect to have gentle kids, when American adults are so absolutely savage and merciless. We have lost empathy in this country, the willingness to put ourselves in the shoes of others. As easy examples, witness all the 'get tough on crime' bullshit, and the almost total lack of concern about the US government ordering extrajudicial assassinations of its own citizens. I'm sure that, with a little thought, we could draw up a list of examples ten pages long.

Adults in this country mostly do not give a flying fuck about the welfare of others. Their kids reflect that.
posted by Malor at 11:27 AM on June 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


On the Storify page there's talk (if I'm reading it correctly) of a collection being taken up for the guy who started the collection for Klein, with that guy protesting "this is not a scam!" etc. It just made me wonder how it can be assured that the beneficiary gets all the funds intended for her.

posted by allnamesaretaken at 2:13 PM on June 21



"An Indiegogo spokesperson told msnbc.com that the website was working to make sure Klein would get the money raised through its site."
posted by magstheaxe at 11:28 AM on June 21, 2012


one of the youtube videos has posted the names of the kids as well as their contact information. please tag the videos as inappropriate due to the description and comments. nothing these kids have done or could do justifies their personal info going public. these kids are under aged. first, we all know these kids and some here have been them (still are them) and second, they are kids!
posted by azileretsis at 11:29 AM on June 21, 2012


The behavior of those kids is inexcusable but isn't it the bus monitors job to ensure that precisely this kind of thing doesn't happen?
posted by zeoslap at 11:32 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


GREECE, NY SCHOOL BUS MONITOR PRESS CONFERENCE (video actually starts at 22m10s, is basically blank before that)
posted by hippybear at 11:32 AM on June 21, 2012


They seemed to be fine with being filmed via cameraphone and had no compunction about going on YouTube. While I would not resort to that step myself, I'm not losing sleep if the little fuckers get exposed.
posted by prepmonkey at 11:33 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


toodleydoodley: Middle school students are swamped with hormones, overwhelmed by peer pressure and inadequately supervised. We don't put enough into making sure every adult is properly instructed in keeping the kids from letting their nasty little ids run wild.

This is a great summary of the situation. In the US, education funding is an easy thing to cut, because no one directly makes money from it, at least not in the same way a business community does. And Education is a system built for future values, which are also hard to rally for. Which makes it hard to sell teaching and related fields for employment. You get the summers off (without pay)! You only need to be in school a bit longer than the kids (and then you go home and write up lesson plans for the next days, and grade homework)! You're dealing with kids (it's 30+ vs 1, and they will test the limits of your control if you show any weakness)! Add on the "those who can't do, teach" mentality, plus "my child is a special snowflake, and deserves special treatment," and teaching is downright imposing.

Yet, teachers spend 12 years shaping, or trying to shape, young minds. But let's cut education funding, it doesn't make us any money, does it?
posted by filthy light thief at 11:34 AM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


> They seemed to be fine with being filmed via cameraphone and had no compunction about going on YouTube.

I think one of them posted it on their Facebook page first, and then a contact reposted it to YouTube. It probably was originally posted just to show off to other jerkish friends, with no real thought to information security or sharing. Kids should know how to manage their online information by now, at least.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:36 AM on June 21, 2012


I went to school in Mississippi and in the state museum they had this blown-up life-sized photo of a civil rights sit-in at a soda fountain just a couple of blocks away (that still existed at that time). In it are shown several well dressed, black, young men and women sitting stiff and stoney-faced, maintaining their composure and poise despite being surrounded by a jeering mob of young white men about their same age. They have ice cream and soda poured all over their heads and clothing, but they are still solid. Seeing it life-sized like that was so powerful.

Having grown up in the South I have many friends who went through those times or whose parents did. Many of them are ashamed of the things they did in those days. Every time I saw that image I hoped that those jeering boys all these years later see that picture and are ashamed of what they did too.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:37 AM on June 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


I wonder: have there been studies done on how the continuity of education affects bullying? Is it more or less a problem in K-12 schools compared to the K-6, 7-8, 9-12 (or 7-9, 10-12 that some people have). I would think K-12 would have less bullying, because an 18 year old is more likely to stop a 12 year old from picking on a 5 year old than another 12 year old would.

Even when I was going through it, it seemed a brutal choice to take the 2 (or 3) worst years of your adolescence (aka, puberty), rip you away from the people you've known for 5-6 years, and throw you into a place with few consequences (because you'll be leaving those adults behind in a year or two when you go to high school).
posted by BeeDo at 11:41 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


This just makes me so angry. If I found out little KillaSeal was doing this, or participating in this type of behavior (he's in junior high school as well), it would be a sad, sad, day for him.

This poor woman endured a lot abuse. Nice to see the fundraising thing happening, but I really hope someone is following up with some disciplinary action or penalties for those terrible children, as well as educating them on why that type of behavior is completely unacceptable. Personally, I hope that each particpant gets an old-fashioned ass whipping from their respective parents, but in today's world, that is probably asking for too much. Hell, I'm willing to bet that the parenting those kids get is substandard; when I was coming up, talking to my peers that way was one thing, but talking to an adult like that? Unthinkable. Nowadays? You get little shits like these, thinking they can talk to adults any which way. This type of behavior truly makes me wonder what is going on in their homes.
posted by KillaSeal at 11:42 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


My first school bus experience was as a kindergartner taking the bus to a middle school to catch another bus. My best friend and I would hide under the seats because the interplay between the middle schoolers and the bus driver - yelling back and forth at eachother, throwing stuff, calling eachother horrible names - was really scary as a shy 5-year-old. I rode the bus in sixth grade, and sat next to an older girl who I knew from orchestra. A group of boys would sit around us and ask sexually explicit questions and call us dykes and stuff. As an 11-year-old, it was pretty scary. In seventh grade, a group of girls stuck gum in my hair three days in a row, and I finally convinced my parents to drive me to school in the mornings, and then I'd stay after almost every day for extra-curricular activities so someone had to drive me home.

It was not worth complaining about these things. The bus drivers either participated - first time I heard the n-word was on the bus in kindergarten - or ignored it, so why bother making a fuss? The documentary Bully (Trailer) showed just how bad schools can get - and schools are complicit. I'm glad that this has received national attention. I hope that the poor woman this happens to gets some compensation, and I hope that maybe (since it happened to an adult?) this will mark some sort of turning point in the way we treat bullying in schools.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:45 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


one of the youtube videos has posted the names of the kids as well as their contact information. please tag the videos as inappropriate due to the description and comments. nothing these kids have done or could do justifies their personal info going public. these kids are under aged. first, we all know these kids and some here have been them (still are them) and second, they are kids!

Won't someone think of the kids? Y'know, the ones who insulted a grandmother until she cried and who filmed the whole thing themselves, and then distributed it on Facebook.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:46 AM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


one of the youtube videos has posted the names of the kids as well as their contact information.

rough justice.
I won't say they deserve it but as a new ager type I used to know would say, "What were they pretending not to cause?"
posted by philip-random at 11:48 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Come on, we've all seen how ugly internet mob behavior can get. These kids / their parents don't need to be getting death threats from strangers.
posted by naju at 11:50 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


My eldest child starts kindergarten this fall, and as a nerdy type myself, who was bullied somewhat (but not terribly) in school, I worry terribly about him being bullied. Of course the idea that he would bully someone else is even more horrific. So, everyone is talking about how all the traditional responses to bullying don't work. So what DOES work? What should I be planning to tell my child?
posted by Joh at 11:53 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]



Everyone of those fucking brats and their parents should be put on national TV and made to answer to the world for what they did.


Maybe the parents aren't doing enough, maybe they are.

I have to tell you - raising a teenager changes your perspective on things.

When kids are small, you go to great efforts to impart the right lessons: Eat your vegetables. Clean your room. Don't talk to strangers. That sort of thing. You work really hard creating a perfect environment for them to grow and succeed.

Then they turn 13 and they proceed to forget and lament everything they've ever been taught.

Sure, I could ground my son to his room. Take away his cell phone and his gameboy, or whatever. But if he refused to learn anything from the experience, then what ? You can lead a horse to water, after all, but you can't make it drink.

Some 12-14 year olds are the worst human beings in the world and no amount of model parenting can change that.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:55 AM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Cruelty and savagery and pack-hunting, which can be useful in predatory or semi-predatory animals like modern humans, can also be misapplied or indulged in out of proportion... this is not normal, and requires correction.

Maybe this is just me being picky, but I wouldn't argue with the above if you used the word "good" instead. This sort of cruel group behavior is the rule, not the exception.

Other animals also masturbate in public, much like the sex offender down the block, what's your point?

Other species having been observed to torture is evidence suggesting that delight in the pain of others is deeply rooted, widespread behavior and not some aberration that only happened because the individual's particular environment modeled this type of behavior for them.
posted by BigSky at 11:57 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


$270k now. Karen, enjoy your retirement.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:57 AM on June 21, 2012


as of about five minutes ago, it was up to $269K.

(wonders what could be done with $269K to help out bullied kids in the school district where this took place)
posted by Lucinda at 11:57 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, sorry, but at a certain point the anguish caused by verbal threats probably recedes into a "holy shit that's a nice pile of cash!" good feeling.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:58 AM on June 21, 2012


Come on, we've all seen how ugly internet mob behavior can get. These kids / their parents don't need to be getting death threats from strangers.

Of course not, but the reason they don't need to be getting death threats shouldn't be "Oh, they're just kids".
posted by 23skidoo at 12:00 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Opinion poll: do you think this depends somewhat on the actual communtiy they live in?

I grew up in the 80's and this type of bullying was very common in my childhood in my town. I was the recipient of it daily, but it also happened daily to janitors, lunch ladies, bus drivers, substitute teachers and any regular teachers who showed weakness. I grew up in a small/medium sized affluent town, and if I went there today--if nothing had changed--I would fully expect, as a grown woman, to be barked at, or followed, or have something thrown at me if I happened to walk by an unsupervised group of teenaged boys.

I live in Austin now. A larger, also affluent, town with a youngish demographic. It's a town with a normal number of teenagers and an average gang problem. I would be totally shocked if this happened to me here. Of course it could. But it wouldn't be expected because teenagers here don't act like they own the whole town. Even when I rode the bus all the time in austin and did encounter young people on their own, they kept to themselves, for the most part. I'm sure they are equally brutal to their peers, but they seem to understand that this is a city run by and owned by adults. It's hard to explain.

A childhood friend, who now lives in London, recently reacted with trepidation to a group of teenagers on the corner, and I realized that London is much like my home town in this--a city where groups of teenagers loiter on street corners act like they own the city and any adult could and should be afraid to walk alone past those hormonal clots of seething groupthink.

Does anyone else notice these differences in different cities or have any idea what tips the scale?
posted by boo at 12:02 PM on June 21, 2012


(wonders what could be done with $269K to help out bullied kids in the school district where this took place)

This is the second time in the past week or so that something like this has happened on Reddit (the first was raising money for a guy with a terminal disease to see the world) it's a laudable activity, but one thing about the internet is there's not really a brake that says "hey maybe that's enough money, let's stop now."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:03 PM on June 21, 2012


because money solves everything, right?
posted by HyperBlue at 12:05 PM on June 21, 2012


There's also a campaign for the guy who started the original campaign.

"... Obviously for being a good guy, but mostly for dealing with all the media attention, phone calls, and putting in extra hours to provide updates here and on reddit, answer questions, and legitimize the whole thing. I bet it's a little exhausting, and it'll only ramp up as the event gets national attention.

Maybe we could buy him a new laptop? "

It's up to about $1,950 right now
posted by Lucinda at 12:06 PM on June 21, 2012


one thing about the internet is there's not really a brake that says "hey maybe that's enough money, let's stop now."

Sure there is, but that limit is something which happens through community consensus and not because there is someone who will throw the off-switch.

Once the threshold is crossed where people interested enough in this story to give money look at the total raised and decide that their $20 isn't going to make much difference in the total or feel like the amount is enough, the funds will stop flowing. Apparently that hasn't happened yet.
posted by hippybear at 12:08 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Another thing that can be difficult to internalize is that anger at the kids is misplaced. The school administration knew the kids on the bus were not under control but were too incompetent to fix the problem, or they knew the kids on the bus were not under control but they did not care, or they do not properly monitor anything and had no clue the kids on the bus were not under control. This was almost certainly not an isolated incident. It's very likely she experienced low-level harassment previously, and other students are very likely to have gone through what she went through.

What tools did the administration make available to the bus drivers and the monitors to deal with problem children? I'm going to assume, until proven otherwise, that they gave them either no training or training as efficacious as what they tell kids to do when confronted with bullying. Which is to say, pablum and bullshit that simply doesn't work.

Is there a way in place for the educators and custodians on the ground to escalate disciplinary measures? An escalation plan that increasingly involves parents, administrators, and children, holding them jointly and equally accountable for progress? Do staff get regular training in these processes? Do they have a way to provide feedback anonymously, and are there serious policies in place to block retribution if a staff member mentions that the emperor has no clothes? Or are the people running the school too concerned with funding issues and avoiding lawsuits to actually tackle the tough questions involved in managing a horde of wild children on a daily basis?

And why the hell is this coming out via a video taken by one of the perpetrators? If that video hadn't come out, would anyone in administration care about the problems on that bus? My assumption, until proven otherwise, is a resounding "hell no."

Why don't the administrators at the school have to stand on a stage, watch the video in front of the school board, PTA , and internet, and explain publicly, for the record, exactly what they knew, when, and why they didn't give their employees the tools they needed to maintain order on the bus?
posted by jsturgill at 12:09 PM on June 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


The kids absolutely deserve consequences. I don't know what it should be -- some kind of community service in an old age home? -- but I am sure there are reasonable consequences. (Yes, including in school suspensions and written letters of apology to this woman.) But I do not care what you do when you are 13, you are a child and your name should not be forever attached to the stupid fucking shit you did then.
posted by jeather at 12:16 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


because money solves everything, right?

Not at all. But words and money are the only two things people from the rest of the country can really do to help this poor woman immediately. And only the latter can really do any good, right now.

Considering how quick this will disappear from the national outrage consciousness, perhaps it's the best we can hope for, nationally.

Locally, of course, there are a lot more things to be done.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:16 PM on June 21, 2012


jsturgill: a good number of your questions are answered in the press conference video.

(In short, the bus driver didn't know what was going on, there has been training going on in regard to bullying management for several years in the school district, disciplinary steps require a specific procedure which is being followed by the school district in accordance with NY public school law, Klein had experienced harassment before but has never felt threatened by any of it.)

Watch the video. You'll find much of what you are looking for is addressed.
posted by hippybear at 12:17 PM on June 21, 2012


Even when I was going through it, it seemed a brutal choice to take the 2 (or 3) worst years of your adolescence (aka, puberty), rip you away from the people you've known for 5-6 years, and throw you into a place with few consequences (because you'll be leaving those adults behind in a year or two when you go to high school).

That's the plus side. The minus side, notes my wife who was raised in a small town where 6-12 shared the same school, is 18-year-old boys fucking "dating" 12-year-old girls. When I was a kid, most high schools were 4-year, and middle-schools 3-year, and now I think it's the other way around, possibly for that reason.

I can't watch this video. I was never bullied, nor did I bully (though I'm sure I probably said mean things from time-to-time, hell, I still do when I open my mouth without thinking when I'm angry), but I also don't think I ever stood up for anyone in these situations, much to my regret. Often times if you magically end up in that place where you're not popular but you're not the victim, you don't want to make waves.
posted by maxwelton at 12:18 PM on June 21, 2012


Burhanistan: Kids should know how to manage their online information by now, at least.

The transparent, social internet is still a young thing. It is really best to consider anything posted online as public and eternal, but both terms are pretty vague to most kids. Heck, adults don't understand this, even adults who should know better. How many congressmen have had their careers ruined by pictures or text posted online? Information doesn't need to be submitted to a database to show up on Google, and any stupid thing you post onto a website that you do not directly control is likely going to stick there for a few years, providing a snapshot of that stupid thing you did.

Maybe this will be better understood in a generation or two, but the internet is still largely considered personal and private, even though it is clearly not at all.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:18 PM on June 21, 2012


When I was in high school, kids from my town were unbelievably hard on our bus drivers (and we spent 2 hours a day on the bus, so we had time to be hard on them), and we made at least one of them cry and two of them quit and rumour has it that one ended up in in-patient treatment after a nervous breakdown. It was considered pretty much a badge of honour that we were the bus run that no one wanted to drive, even though it was one of the longest -- and thus best paid -- runs available.

And we were never, ever even close to this unrelentingly awful.

That poor woman.

I use the word 'we' loosely here, since I was way too much of a goody-goody to join in, and subject to way too much bullying myself to be allowed to join in. I will admit though, at the time, I wanted so desperately to be accepted that I would gladly have bullied the hell out of a bus driver to fit in with the other kids.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:19 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: Dear Bullies:

Okay, let's break this down for you.

You were mean to her and you got nothing.

She wasn't mean and total strangers gave her several thousand dollars.

So how's that bullying stuff working out for ya?


They probably had some "fame" at their school when the video was first posted, and now they have internet "fame." Any attention is enjoyed by bullies. Until they get reprimanded in a meaningful way, they're still getting attention without consequence.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:23 PM on June 21, 2012


The behavior of those kids is inexcusable but isn't it the bus monitors job to ensure that precisely this kind of thing doesn't happen?

Man, sucks that those poachers murdered that park ranger. But isn't it the park ranger's fault for not stopping the poachers like he should have?
posted by FatherDagon at 12:23 PM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'd have to agree with those who mention the example of adults. Given the support for the idea that you make your own success and it's for you and everyone who isn't is a failure I'm not surprised. When things like national Health Care (why should we pay for someone who smoked?) and teachers aren't important (they're incompetent and "liberals") are bandied about the adult sphere and accepted (though not of course exclusively) I'm not to surprised.

The nonsense we see coming from certain parts of society (such as the Tea Party for example) are not being regularly laughed down instantly but are gaining traction. If you're not an asshole you're not American has become the defacto slogan for many in a way.
posted by juiceCake at 12:25 PM on June 21, 2012


Even when I rode the bus all the time in austin and did encounter young people on their own, they kept to themselves, for the most part. I'm sure they are equally brutal to their peers, but they seem to understand that this is a city run by and owned by adults.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:27 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


@FatherDragon - you'd hope that the park ranger would at least go down fighting and not simply try and ignore the poachers. What would her role have been had these kids been bullying another kid on that bus?
posted by zeoslap at 12:30 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm shocked at the lack of compassion here for yes, the bullies. And I speak as someone who was mercilessly bullied in school, as was one of my kids. These are children. They should know better, but somehow, they don't. Hate and threats and contempt are not going to help them become kinder. I don't know what will, though.
posted by Wordwoman at 12:31 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


this is a city run by and owned by adults.
Touche, The 10th Regiment of Foot..sort of. That movie is set in Austin, but Richard Linklater grew up in Houston, and Dazed has never felt like Austin to me (unlike Slacker, which most certainly does). I'm not saying that teenagers here aren't absolutely horrible to each other, I'm just saying that they don't present the same kind of menacing, uncontrolled presence in the public, adult spaces that they do in my home town or other cities I have been--e.g. London and basically most of England. I'm sure it's subjective, but I just wondered if other people had noticed these regional distinctions as well.
posted by boo at 12:41 PM on June 21, 2012


This was my bus ride home from jr. high school almost every day. They're picking on her with the exact same tactics and language that they used to pick on me back in '75. Times may have changed, but middle-schoolers are the same forever.

Where's my $200k?
posted by squalor at 12:45 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, this isn't true. If you're going to quote plays, read The Oresteia. The desire for the guilty to be hurt is always the foundation of a justice system.

ThatFuzzyBastard, I think you're probably about as plain wrong as one can get. We tend to be more certain of the guilt of those accused of more heinous crimes exactly because the basic psychological motivation is to hurt in response to our suffering, and that desire becomes fixed on someone. The move to justification only comes after that.

The baying mobs outside the homes of mistakenly accused paedophiles have the same motivation as the justice system, and the same justification. Revenge, unpleasant as it is, is only the cover for a much more unpleasant truth.

The desire for the guilty to be hurt is the illusion upon which a illusion of a justice system is justified.
posted by howfar at 12:48 PM on June 21, 2012


Fox News opinion piece: What should we do with bus monitor bullies?

Some quotes:

"Mostly though, I think that a word of thanks is more appropriate than typical punishment.

...

Forget Karen Klein for a moment, forget appropriate behavior for a moment, at the very least, these kids need to learn that their own interests will not be served by cruelty and hatred. These kids turned out to be losers – not in some broad philosophical sense, but in more than 150,000 material ways.

And, let's be honest, after all, which would these kids, or any of us, rather have; the momentary “bullying buzz” they got from their awful acts or the at least $150,000 that Karen Klein will likely receive -- even after taxes?
"

Pretty dumb stuff. The kids are losers in this exchange? How so? The only sense in which they are losers is the broad philosophical one. They certainly didn't lose out on any money. The money was never available to them, their reward was always non-material. This question about which we and they would rather have is nonsensical. However a hypothetical question that does make sense is what would Karen Klein rather have had, time spent working at her job with mostly behaving passengers and no cash, or the period harassment with her being made into an object of world wide pity and a nice chunk of change? I suppose it depends on her finances, but I wouldn't be surprised if she would prefer having been treated with respect rather than the cash.

I also note the writer's mention that he is against corporal punishment, even though he didn't have to take a position one way or the other in this piece, which seems to be the default position every time it comes up in the media. It's like there's some incentive for them to declare themselves opposed.
posted by BigSky at 12:53 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, this is the same school district that brought the world Jason McElwain.

Wonder how much he got tormented before he threw all those 3 pointers....
posted by Lucinda at 1:03 PM on June 21, 2012


I feel truly heartbroken for this lady and everything, but I still think maybe schools shouldn't employee sweet little old ladies for job better suited to ex-wrestlers and R Lee Ermey and angry bears. Vote for me and kids will grow up shook and humble the way everyone wants them!
posted by SharkParty at 1:12 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


So I'm subbing in a middle school today (and a different one yesterday), and I'm only now on my break and learning of this whole story. Forgive me if I make points others have made.

*This is NOT that unusual to me, except in its intensity. I've seen kids try to bully adults, and sometimes they succeed. They know our options for response are limited. I imagine this lady had basically no consequences she could levy other than "tell an administrator and they'll follow up," which does no good during the actual incident and is often useless later. I get this a lot in the instructions teachers leave me--"If kids misbehave, leave their names for me and I will follow up when I get back." That's great, but what do I do DURING the incident? Do you have an established discipline process here? Do I just use my imagination? I can run on my own, sure, but if you've got a process in place, why the hell don't you share it with me?

* I worked a lot last year with an apprentice teacher who had a student who had figured out she could bully said apprentice. The gal couldn't bully me, so I had to step in a lot (and we wind up having confrontations all the time when I see her now even a year later).

You show weakness, fear or uncertainty in front of kids and they often can and will pounce. And yet our schools set volunteers and professionals up to live with that all the time--and get fiercely defensive when you call them on it.

*"Monitoring" kids can always be tough (sometimes easy, sometimes awful), and doubly so if you're not a person of recognized authority like a regular teacher or an administrator. These kids know you don't know who they are and will lie to conceal their friends' identities. Yet if the lady here had taken pictures or recordings of them? She'd be the one in trouble for a privacy violation.

*I could tell, when I was a teen, which of my peers were douchebags and which were not. As an adult, this has not changed. I simply have to hold the door open for them to decide not to be douchebags. But let's call the spade a spade and not wring our hands about these kids just making "bad decisions," alright? They damn well knew what they were doing was wrong. That's why it was fun for them. They decided to be douchebags. They should learn that this decision has consequences.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:21 PM on June 21, 2012 [17 favorites]


Threatening to levy consequences (or levying consequences, for that matter) is actually a sign of failure, unless the children are breaking an actual law.

In this sort of situation it's lion-tamer time, and the only hope in hell you have as a teacher and as an adult is to develop relationships with the kids, and somehow pushing back (in a friendly but assertive way).

The other trick is to avoid situations where you have no chance of winning.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:28 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am once again rejoicing in my obviously brilliant decision to not have children.
posted by caryatid at 1:32 PM on June 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


Me too, caryatid. They scare me!
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:40 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm shocked at the lack of compassion here for yes, the bullies. And I speak as someone who was mercilessly bullied in school, as was one of my kids. These are children. They should know better, but somehow, they don't. Hate and threats and contempt are not going to help them become kinder. I don't know what will, though.

I'm sorry, I'm fresh out of give-a-fuck for these monsters. I spent all mine on Ms. Klein.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 1:43 PM on June 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


robocop is bleeding: "Therefore, the School Board has concluded that until your child is a full fledged Human Being, they will not longer be eligible to ride the bus. We understand this may cause you some inconvenience as you will be required to drive your spawn to school yourselves,"

This is a very likely outcome; in my district, generally on the bus first instance of misbehavior gets a warning, second gets a write-up, and third gets loss of bus privileges for some period of time, sometimes an entire school year. Egregious behavior or any behavior that causes a threat to safety can lose privileges immediately. Students can also be suspended (or in theory even expelled) from school for behavior on the bus.

I can't actually bring myself to watch the video, because I have to watch videos like this in my real life, but based on the news stories I would expect these students to lose bus privileges and be suspended. Punishments levied at the end of the year are served at the beginning of the next year (as toodleydoodley notes.)

item: "On CNN this morning, the reporter mentioned that the children involved were being identified and that the matter had been turned over to the local police. Anyone know what they could be charged with? Is bullying a crime yet (as it should be) in most jurisdictions? "

In my jurisdiction, probably criminal harassment. However, we usually prefer students NOT end up in the criminal court system if it isn't necessary -- it's often a REAL and public permanent record, it denies children who are still very young the chance to reform, change, and grow (and the belief that children can learn and change and grow underlies the entire school system), and locally our criminal court system is very harsh (not appropriately harsh towards people who have done bad things; inappropriately and unrestrainedly harsh in the "suspected criminals have no rights!" way), especially on children. I suspect the police are involved because the internet is involved, but some districts handle so few "serious" incidents that they turn everything even a little serious over to the police, so I could be wrong.

magstheaxe: [Students should have to explain themselves:] "I really wanna see this. I really want to know why they did what they did. I want to know at what point, this could have possibly seemed like a good idea."

I have been at hearings for students with disciplinary issues. I have read, at this point, hundreds of disciplinary hearing transcripts. This is not nearly as satisfying as you think. It mostly just makes me want to cry.

One of the things that's difficult about dealing with bullying is that as many people were victims, and bullying is not just all one thing, lots of people have intuitions about how it should be handled that may have worked in their case but may not be helpful in other cases, and may not work on a large scale. Not that I have a good answer, but we do have tons and tons of research on bullying and our personal-experience-based intuitive responses are usually not what's needed. (I know of a couple of successful programs that are interesting, I can look for links in a bit if people are curious.)

(Another post in a minute about bus monitoring as a job.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:59 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I generally try to remember that a lot of parents are like Tony and Carmela Soprano: so powerful in certain realms, but lacking the tools to effectively and adeptly communicate with their own children.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:07 PM on June 21, 2012


Threatening to levy consequences (or levying consequences, for that matter) is actually a sign of failure, unless the children are breaking an actual law.

Sorry, I disagree. Threatening usually doesn't get you anywhere, but the world is full of consequences. Kids need to learn that. Teaching them otherwise is a massive disservice to them.

In this sort of situation it's lion-tamer time, and the only hope in hell you have as a teacher and as an adult is to develop relationships with the kids, and somehow pushing back (in a friendly but assertive way).

If you have the chance to do that, I agree. Problem is, often times you don't ever get that opportunity. You aren't there long enough, or the kid never gives you the opening and you're stuck with the negative relationship because of their choices. Again, what you're saying is absolutely ideal, but it can't be portrayed as the only viable tactic.

Doing anything with these kids other than coming down on them with the wrath of god (in a non-physical way, mind you) does them no favors at all.

The other trick is to avoid situations where you have no chance of winning.

Sure, except then you're stuck with an awful lot of situations where wise adults will simply avoid contact entirely. And then we don't have enough adults in the schools.

I get what you're saying, but we just can't afford to play it that way. :(
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:07 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


My job involves interacting with kids this age, and as such nothing about this video surprises me.
posted by DJ 3000 at 2:09 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


jbickers: "At least that's been our experience, and our school system doesn't use bus monitors. I hadn't even heard that that was a thing until seeing this"

Our district uses them, and they are actually union jobs in my district. It doesn't pay very well but it does come with benefits if you're full time. (Kind-of expensive benefits, but benefits.) If you have a clean criminal record and are in reasonably good physical health (i.e., you can climb on and off a bus), you can get a job doing it (and we are ALWAYS hiring), so that's a pretty decent low-skilled job. The hours are super-weird, but that works well for some people, as you'll see.

The majority of our bus monitors fall into two groups: retired people and adult students. Bus drivers (and monitors) have to get up really early, so older people who are up early anyway are good candidates. A lot of them like kids and like spending time around them (if they get a "good" bus). They usually ride two routes in the morning -- one elementary and one junior high or high school -- and then if they're full time they have like a three-hour (unpaid) break before the afternoon routes. Which is totally aggravating for most people, but a lot of the retired monitors like to sit around the "bus barn" chatting because they may not have a lot of other social support/contact. So it can be a really good fit for someone like Ms. Klein if the kids are decent. Make a little money, spend time with kids, socialize with other adults. Something to do during the day. Doesn't require particular skills and you can do it sitting down for the most part. Valuable part of the community.

The other group is students often studying at community college (or I think for GEDs -- I don't think you have to have a GED for the job). They often ride the morning routes, study during the 3-hour gap, then ride the afternoon routes, then go to evening classes. It's a pretty good fit for that, too. Some of them earn their CDLs and become drivers, which pays better, but is generally more stressful and the hours are a little longer.

We have a handful of monitors (3 or 4) who have a young elementary-aged student (like age 5 or 6) in the district, and they are sometimes able to work it out so they work their own child's route. They bring junior to the bus barn, ride the whole route to school, go and work a middle school route, work at a cafeteria lunch shift (this is difficult to work out with the two unions in question but can be done), ride their child's afternoon route and see junior dropped at an aunt's house or something, work their second route, and then go home. Even if they have to use aftercare it can be a significant savings over before AND aftercare.

Anyway, bus monitor can be a very difficult and stressful job. But it can also be a really good fit. And a whole lot of it depends on the students.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:13 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


but the world is full of consequences. Kids need to learn that. Teaching them otherwise is a massive disservice to them.

Well, as a teacher I used to focus on measuring scholatic performance - it's what they're in school for, it's eminently measurable, and there are fewer opportunities to stoke a conflict.

Why would I want to waste time enforcing detention? And what if the kid doesn't show up for detention? And how much time does a principal or administrator have to manage my problems as a teacher? It's a sign of weakness.

Sure, the kids need to be called out on what happened on that bus, but the "punishment" methodology is just a big waste of time in normal class situations.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:16 PM on June 21, 2012


re: My eldest child starts kindergarten this fall, and as a nerdy type myself, who was bullied somewhat (but not terribly) in school, I worry terribly about him being bullied. Of course the idea that he would bully someone else is even more horrific. So, everyone is talking about how all the traditional responses to bullying don't work. So what DOES work? What should I be planning to tell my child?

In my crappy experience pathological bullying doesn't start until 4th grade and tapers off by 11th grade, so you've got time. Try to make sure he develops friendships with kids that aren't mean or manipulative. If that doesn't work and he ends up in a bullying environment then do what it takes to remove him from the situation, even if it means switching his school.
posted by efbrazil at 2:33 PM on June 21, 2012


KokuRyu: "Well, as a teacher I used to focus on measuring scholatic performance - it's what they're in school for, it's eminently measurable, and there are fewer opportunities to stoke a conflict.

Why would I want to waste time enforcing detention? And what if the kid doesn't show up for detention? And how much time does a principal or administrator have to manage my problems as a teacher? It's a sign of weakness.

Sure, the kids need to be called out on what happened on that bus, but the "punishment" methodology is just a big waste of time in normal class situations.
"


I am also a substitute teacher, and like scaryblackdeath I am viewing this situation through that lens. I bet many kids view their bus monitors like they view their substitute teachers: totally inconsequential and having only the tiniest sliver of authority. Building relationships and community is definitely the number one way to mold behavior, but there are a lot of adults working with children who don't have that opportunity.

My job is only "scholastic performance" if the kids let it be, and middle schoolers very rarely do. Substitute teaching and bus monitoring are all about not permitting problem behaviors. The biggest tool schools give to substitute teachers (or at least where I am) is physical removal. If my tricks don't work, the kid is out. I can't imagine being in a situation like this where "real authority" is miles and hours away.

I do a lot of actual teaching, especially in elementary and high school, but middle school is really predominately behavior. They want to play games, and the only way to get anything done is to go straight for real consequences.
posted by that's how you get ants at 2:47 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Or will the parents defend their little brats?

"Not *my* Johnny! How dare you accuse my kid/he told me he didn't do it/the other kids made him do it/he's sorry and he'll never do it again!"

I've seen lousy parents turn indisputable accusations against their lousy kids around like it was Olympic-level judo.
posted by DJ 3000 at 2:51 PM on June 21, 2012


In New York State, I'm pretty sure the school will have to pay for and arrange alternate transportation to school if they bar the kids from the bus...something like "if it significantly impedes the ability of the child to get to school."
posted by vitabellosi at 2:53 PM on June 21, 2012


Well, as a teacher I used to focus on measuring scholatic performance - it's what they're in school for, it's eminently measurable, and there are fewer opportunities to stoke a conflict.

What do you do with that kid who has decided he has no hope of passing your class and therefore doesn't care about his grade, and has no interest in behaving himself? The one who smiles and nods at every attempt at a peaceful/friendly/positive solution, and then finds a way through his actions to tell you to go fuck yourself (if not straight out saying so)? What do you do with him?

I'm not trying to challenge you or call you out here. I'm hoping I can learn something here. I have heard your approach before, but it's usually from people who aren't actually dealing with students on a daily basis. You're a teacher, so I presume you've had this kid. How have you handled it, and what has worked for you?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 3:07 PM on June 21, 2012


I've seen lousy parents turn indisputable accusations against their lousy kids around like it was Olympic-level judo.

*Well, my son says you have other kids doing the same thing! Why aren't you doing anything about them?
(Because, 1: Those kids are none of your business, 2: Your kid was dumb enough to get caught, and 3: Again, what I'm doing with those kids is none of your business.)

*Why didn't you call me and tell me this was going on?
(Because every other time I've contacted you, you've been useless, so I figured I'd cut out the middle man and try to get something done.)

*My son thinks you (and possibly several other teachers) just don't like him.
(That's irrelevant. Your son may well have earned my dislike, but I have 30 other kids in the room and I have a job to do. Believe me, the last thing I want to do if I dislike your son is to waste time having pointless, bullshit confrontations with him that take time away from teaching. I'd rather your son cool out and let me do my thing and maybe learn something.)

*I understand many of the students in your class are failing. Doesn't this say more about the teacher than it does about the individual students?
(Not necessarily, no. Sometimes the counselors saddle us with a whole class full of I-don't-give-a-fucks and this is the natural consequence. Sometimes one or two students make a spectacle of how little they care and the others decide to try it on for size. I've got about a half dozen other explanations that might apply, too, and I'm here actually trying with your kid, so how about you give me the benefit of a doubt?)

The best are the parents who literally show up to the meeting for their kid's special education plan (we call them Individual Education Plans in WA) with their no-shit-really lawyer, and they don't want to hear a single thing about behavior because in their mind that's entirely separate from academics.

(Turns out I've had my own classroom more than a few times.)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 3:16 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


No, this isn't true. If you're going to quote plays, read The Oresteia. The desire for the guilty to be hurt is always the foundation of a justice system.

ThatFuzzyBastard, I think you're probably about as plain wrong as one can get. We tend to be more certain of the guilt of those accused of more heinous crimes exactly because the basic psychological motivation is to hurt in response to our suffering, and that desire becomes fixed on someone. The move to justification only comes after that.

The baying mobs outside the homes of mistakenly accused paedophiles have the same motivation as the justice system, and the same justification. Revenge, unpleasant as it is, is only the cover for a much more unpleasant truth.


No, that would be true if the baying mobs outside the homes of accused pedophiles (U.S. spelling) were baying outside the homes of those not accused of pedastry. That they are baying outside the homes of those who they (mistakenly) think did terrible things simply illustrates that the desire to punish wrongdoers is a basic one, and a justice system ignores it at the system's (and the nation's) peril. The job of the court system is to depersonalize that revenge, to impose a system for determining appropriate levels of action, and to prevent vengeance from becoming a tit-for-tat cycle. Revenge on those who do wrong is an ancient desire of humans. As The Oresteia illustrates, if you try to build a justice system without it---if you do not have the Eumenedies in your court's foundation--- you will have a system people do not regard as legitimate.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:22 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


In New York State, I'm pretty sure the school will have to pay for and arrange alternate transportation to school if they bar the kids from the bus...something like "if it significantly impedes the ability of the child to get to school."

True story: in WA, a kid at my school was caught red handed trying to set the building on fire (with school in session) by the School Resource Officer. He just walked into the bathroom and found the kid right there in the act. His mom and her lawyer successfully prevented him from being expelled because he was designated as Special Education. He had mild reading disabilities, but this meant that he had an IEP, so the rules were all different for him.

The principal, cleverly enough, decreed that the kid had to be physically escorted from class to class, and to the bathroom and wherever by the Resource Officer or one of the security guards--again, because he tried to set the goddamned school on fire--and the when the parent couldn't find anyone who thought this was somehow unreasonable, she finally pulled him out.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 3:22 PM on June 21, 2012


but I still think maybe schools shouldn't employee sweet little old ladies for job better suited to ex-wrestlers and R

Yes, I kept thinking that this wouldn't have happened had my very firm, 240-lb. husband been the bus monitor. BTW, I never heard of "bus monitors" growing up. Things must be bad if schools districts have topay an extra $15K per bus just for someone to sit on it and, ostensibly, keep order.
posted by cherrybounce at 3:43 PM on June 21, 2012


His mom and her lawyer successfully prevented him from being expelled because he was designated as Special Education. He had mild reading disabilities, but this meant that he had an IEP, so the rules were all different for him.

Well, you can't expel him, but I believe you can do an intervention for EBD (emotional behavior disturbance) and then apply for change of placement to another school on the grounds that you don't have appropriate facilities to serve his needs. This is one way schools turf difficult children from one place to another. Occasionally it results in an appropriate placement for the child.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:04 PM on June 21, 2012


I think the outrage here is that there was an adult who was picked on. This sort of thing happens everyday to whatever powerless person the kids find.

This isn't uncommon, it isn't even extreme. No one was injured or put in fear. Which is common.

Think about this next time you put your kids on the public school bus. Your kid may not be the one being picked on, but someone is.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 4:05 PM on June 21, 2012


I think the outrage here is that there was an adult who was picked on. This sort of thing happens everyday to whatever powerless person the kids find.

The outrage here is because it went public. If more of the bullying and abuse that went on in schools was posted online, that would lead to outrage, too.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 4:10 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


His mom and her lawyer successfully prevented him from being expelled because he was designated as Special Education. He had mild reading disabilities, but this meant that he had an IEP, so the rules were all different for him.

I am a lawyer, and right now I work a firm that does special ed litigation. The rules are indeed different for kids with IEPs and for good reason. Schools absolutely will suspend kids for behavior that is part of their disability. That's not okay because schools have to educate disabled students; if their disability includes behavior that prevents them from be educated in in a regular classroom, the school system needs to find some place else for them to be. If they need extra supports to succeed in a regular classroom, the school system needs to provide those supports.

What happens when a school wants to suspend a student with a disability is basically a procedure to ensure that that happens. First, a school can suspend any student with disability for up to ten school days* without a problem. If you want to suspend for more than ten days or expel the student, you have to do what's called a manifestation determination review (MDR). The purpose of the MDR is to determine if the behavior you want to suspend the student for is a manifestation of the disability, meaning is this behavior caused by or have a substantial relationship to the disability.

If the behavior is caused by the disability, you can't suspend or expel the student for the behavior. Instead, the school must conduct what's called a functional behavior assessment (an expert assessment as to why the student is behaving in the way they are) and develop a behavior intervention plan (a plan to remedy the behavior, typically using positive reinforcements) This is a good thing because it keeps schools from suspending or expelling students for being disabled. If it's not a manifestation of the disability, you can apply the standard code of conduct that applies to non-disabled students. Nothing in this procedure prevents the school and parents from agreeing to move the student to a different placement (like moving him to an dedicated special education school because his behavior keeps him being educated in a regular classroom).

In the case of this student, my guess is that either 1) the behavior of trying to set fire to the school was a manifestation of the disability or 2) the school failed to abide by the law and conduct the MDR. Either way, these rules are not crazy. They exist for the very good reason that without them schools will do everything in their power not to educate special ed students. Even with the laws, they try pretty hard.

*For certain exceptions, involving illegal drugs and weapons, this can be 45 days
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:20 PM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well I am dumbfounded that the person in charge of keeping order on the bus is so poorly equipped for the job. A hearing-impaired, elderly woman who reacts to the challenge to her authority by shrinking back in her seat, crying, and clutching her purse? What the hell? I don't know why the school system is wasting their money because she is completely ineffectual.

I'm not blaming the victim; I think all of the responsibility for what went wrong rests on the shoulders of her employers. I have to think that either she was not trained very well (or possibly not trained at all) and/or she was given no tools to deal with the situation. If you want children to obey adults, you have to make them fear the consequences for bad behavior such as detention or expulsion or even legal action. Of course some adults have the knack of quelling rebellion with a look, but obviously she is not one of them. Did the school administrators think the children were going to behave themselves merely because there was an adult on board?

Thank god she can retire because frankly this is not the job for her.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:20 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Did the school administrators think the children were going to behave themselves merely because there was an adult on board?

They obviously just don't care. They were somehow mandated to have yet another position they needed to hire and pay for but were damned if they were going to do all but the minimum to show that they were doing it. And here we are.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:23 PM on June 21, 2012


I'm afraid you are right, Space Coyote. And yet all of the outrage and anger is directed at the children involved. I'm not saying they should get off scott-free but I don't think they deserve the ire of the entire internet. They will hopefully outgrow this obnoxious behavior and perhaps even come to feel shame. The real culprit is the person(s) who are responsible for hiring and training the position of bus monitor. They and the School Superintendent should be hauled on the carpet and receive a good smack down. What was caught on video was bad enough but what goes on daily without being taped is most assuredly worse.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:30 PM on June 21, 2012


jonmc: "Everyone of those fucking brats and their parents should be put on national TV and made to answer to the world for what they did."

And thus begins THE HUNGER GAMES!

Sadly, I have a feeling they'd relish the notoriety.
posted by symbioid at 4:32 PM on June 21, 2012


Sadly, I have a feeling they'd relish the notoriety.

See, for an example of this, the Spur Posse, members of which relished their notoriety so much that they went on talk shows to bask in the attention.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 4:50 PM on June 21, 2012


Appropriate punishment? Have the school support staff - cafeteria, janitorial, gardener - assign them tasks for a week. Scrape gum off the bottom of tables and desks, scrub out the cafeteria garbage cans, wash windows, clean toilets, pick garbage out of the school shrubbery. If they refuse to cooperate or give the staff a hard time - expel them for two weeks. Let their parents juggle holding down a job while figuring out how to keep the little monsters occupied.
posted by echolalia67 at 5:09 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did any of you catch the part where Karen was explaining the text that decorated her purse? Things like "be remarkable," "live with integrity," "laugh often"? And she says, "I try to live by these words." The kids are ridiculing it, with one kid saying "nobody cares what your shitty purse says."

It touches me that she continues to try to engage with the kids, and yet they persist in their cruelty. Wow, just utterly unbelievable. This was not "just words," this is the type of cruelty and moral vacuity displayed by kids who torture animals for kicks. In fact, shit, they aren't just cruel to her, they are torturing her.

These teens deserve to be mocked and shamed well into adulthood. Fuck them, they are beyond help.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 5:13 PM on June 21, 2012


My oldest son just turned 10, and this kind of thing makes my stomach ache. I can't imagine my sweet and polite boy potentially doing something like this in a couple of years. I don't believe he will, and we're doing all we can to raise him to be the kind of person that would step in and say something in a situation like this. But my god ... that is such a scary age, with so much darkness in it.

...

I'm shocked at the lack of compassion here for yes, the bullies.

Yeah, I didn't watch but the first 2 minutes, but I am familiar with the escalation here. Surely what these kids were saying to this woman is not right by any sane person's measure, but they are kids.

Sad to say, but I can totally imagine my sweet little 3 y.o. girl getting caught up with friends and doing or saying something despicable that she doesn't even totally understand.

The behavior of those kids is inexcusable but isn't it the bus monitors job to ensure that precisely this kind of thing doesn't happen?

Man, sucks that those poachers murdered that park ranger. But isn't it the park ranger's fault for not stopping the poachers like he should have?


Yeah, yeah, I get it. She was probably in a no-win situation, but ... as someone who has braved the "dangers" (i.e. mostly this sort of verbal abuse) of junior-high substitute teaching, one thing really stood out to me:

This woman has no competence in her job. There surely must be some sort of disciplinary approach. These kids would not have been able to get 30 seconds into this crap with me. I would say "stop the fucking bus I'm calling the administrator" and if there's no disciplinary action taken I'm looking for a new gig (I realize that's not an option for everyone, especially older employees.)

But you just can't let those little monsters (cuz that's what they will act like if you let them) starting with ANY sort of disrespectful behavior or it will inevitably escalate to this uber-bullshit.

I do have some sympathies for these bullies because this situation is fucked up. This adult supervisor is acting like a child/student. SHE is the one with authority and power (at least some?), and these children do not respect her one bit. That is a HUGE part of the job--you have to command respect.

It touches me that she continues to try to engage with the kids, and yet they persist in their cruelty.

Yeah, and I think that was the absolutely wrong way to do with it. She is trying to communicate with them like a peer, which is absolutely ridiculous in this case.

I'm pretty happy that this woman got a huge cash reward for getting shit on, but the cynical side of me says she's getting a fat reward for simply being incompetent.

These teens deserve to be mocked and shamed well into adulthood. Fuck them, they are beyond help.

This bullshit attitude ^^^^ is what fuels our out-of-control prison industry and the laws that support it. "Beyond help?" Grow up.

(Or what SLOG said shorter and better.)
posted by mrgrimm at 5:22 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I apologize for using the word "fat." That was stupid and inconsiderate, but not intentional. Sorry.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:27 PM on June 21, 2012


These teens deserve to be mocked and shamed well into adulthood. Fuck them, they are beyond help.

Some of them may be, but as I mentioned above, I rode a bus where the kids took pride in tormenting the drivers. These kids are more cruel and cruel in a more constant, insistent way than we were, but there isn't a huge, huge gap.

Nearly all of the kids I rode that bus with have grown up to be useful, productive adults. They have families, jobs, children, they pay taxes, give money to charity, go to church and do volunteer work. The ones who didn't turn into useful adults, well, they have their own set of problems, but I don't suppose the percentage of them who are failing at adulthood is much higher than the average.

And as I said above, as well, I didn't participate in the bullying, but not because I knew it was wrong -- though I did -- but because I was completely bullied on that bus, too. And even there, not because my own bullying made me sympathetic to the drivers, but because as the main target of derision and mocking on the bus, trying to participate in that manner would have made me more of a target. But if I could have figured out how to do it, how to join in the mocking so I could be one of the crowd, be accepted, finally fit in, I would have. I would have sooooo much.

There may be 1 or 2 irredeemable cases on that bus, but I'd bet 95% of the kids involved have joined in so they don't stand out. Because at that age, often the only options will be to be one of the bullies or to be one of the victims.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:27 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty happy that this woman got a huge cash reward for getting shit on, but the cynical side of me says she's getting a fat reward for simply being incompetent.

You know what, that's a pretty tacky way of looking at this. Your "kids will be kids" and "she's being rewarded for her incompetence" viewpoint is, in my view, getting things pretty ass-backward.

What I see is an older woman who probably has to work well past retirement age, put into a position where she's not supported at all by her employer, reviled by these kids precisely because she's old and has to work, with the kids completely out of control because their parents, at least morally, are not adults either. This type of treatment of an elder is nothing short of sociopathic. It's not normal. And to treat it as if it's normal kid stuff and as if it's the old lady's just deserts for her incompetence is beyond fucked up; it's a variation on the excuses that we will almost certainly be hearing from these kids' parents.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 5:38 PM on June 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


Yes, I kept thinking that this wouldn't have happened had my very firm, 240-lb. husband been the bus monitor.

I guarantee you middle school kids can find something to make fun of if they want to. If there's not something there, they will literally make something up. Doesn't matter how inaccurate it is or how silly it is. If they detect even a hint of weakness there, they will keep digging and digging at it. And remember, the kids that are assholes have nothing to do but sit there and throw things--maybe literally, maybe not--at him until he reacts.

The really good ones keep up a patter that never quite crosses the line into something you could punish them for, just the kind of low-grade annoying that makes you want to murder them every day. And of course, if you yell at them or tell them to shut up or show a hint of anger, they know what angle to work on you and it gets worse.

Let me give you the most ridiculous example I remember, since I was in a notoriously bad class. Teachers that had been there for 50 years said we were the worst bunch they'd ever seen and I'm told from friends that wound up teaching there that they STILL talk about us the way some people talk about Vietnam.

One of the teachers wore khaki pants to school, as did most of us. They were Dickies rather than the Dockers we all wore, though, which bespoke a certain working-class sensibility and cheapness to my private school cohorts. One of the kids spoke up on the first day. "Hey!" he says. "Nice pants!" The teacher thanked him and went back to what he was doing. And you could tell that this bothered him. Maybe it was a flinch. Maybe it was just the look in his eye. There was nothing remarkable about him otherwise. He wasn't old or young or fat or thin or any of the other things kids might latch onto. He just wore Dickies.

From that point forward, his name may as well have been Mr. Nicepants. It started in my section of 30 or so kids, but it spread through our entire grade of about 120 kids. And from that point forward, when we walked in the classroom, someone always said "Nice pants!" Which was 4 times a day, since he taught 4 sections. But then every time someone passed him in the hallway, it was "Nice pants!" Every time they saw him at lunch, it was "Nice pants!" When he'd go to coach whatever it was he coached, it was "Nice pants!" Bump into him in town? "Nice pants!"

On the one hand, this is absurd. On the other hand 120 kids doing their damnedest to annoy the shit out of you every day wears on you, especially when they're not really doing anything over the line enough to punish them. He apparently went to the administration and they said, "You want us to punish them for complimenting your pants?"

He eventually got annoyed enough and tried detention if you said it, of course, but that just indicated further weakness and people turned on him like wolves. Then it became a game. It became fun, not just low-grade annoying. He turns his back on the class? "NICE PANTS!" He's walking down the hall? "NICE PANTS!" shouted from too far away to pick out who did it.

So he escalates. He tries like group detention for the whole classroom if someone says it, which blows back on him because obviously this is something that pisses him off greatly and most everyone is willing to stay 30 minutes after school to troll an adult. And it begins happening so frequently he can't fill out enough detention slips, because we were flooding him with "Nice pants!" (If it happens 3 times in class, he has to fill out 90 slips, if it happens 3 times in 4 classes of 30, well...). And in doing so he makes his life worse, since word gets around to the other grades that if they say "Nice pants!", he'll blow his stack since we've been annoying him with it for about a semester. Now every kid in school (slight exaggeration) barrages him with "Nice pants!" at any opportunity they get, because what they're really saying is "Fuck you, adult, we know this bothers you and we don't care. This time We Have The Power And You Can't Stop Us."

In the meantime, the group detentions are pissing off the parents and coaches and other teachers, since he's basically detaining the entire grade at that point and, well, people want to coach their sports teams and parents want to pick up their kids and you're keeping the bus drivers waiting and they have to draft extra teachers for bigass detention, so finally the administration steps in for an assembly I'd sum up as "Hey, you little shits, quit harassing Mr. Nicepants."

Two weeks after the assembly after another barrage of "NICE PANTS!", he finally snapped and started throwing things at students. We fled and, naturally, everyone called their parents about Mr. Nicepants freaking out for NO REASON and throwing desks at us and the administration had to deal with 30 students milling around in the hall and parents rushing over to save their kids from Teacher On The Rampage, and the teacher still having a complete meltdown. We never saw him again and naturally, we got yelled at a lot and a bunch of punishment. And none of it mattered, because we'd won by successfully annoying an adult so much we broke them.

That's why I say kids are like wolves.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:04 PM on June 21, 2012 [27 favorites]


I'm not saying they should get off scott-free but I don't think they deserve the ire of the entire internet. They will hopefully outgrow this obnoxious behavior and perhaps even come to feel shame

I disagree, vehemently. The only way these children learn that you do not mock another person to tears, that you do not behave with malice and inhumanity toward a person who is merely existing in your space, that you must not be wantonly cruel is to shame them, is to direct ire at them, and explain to them why, so that they learn they cannot get away with being inhumane because it's a phase, or adolescence, or they are just kids. You learn not to be an asshole by being required to confront your own inhumanity when you behave like an asshole.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:32 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


See, for an example of this, the Spur Posse, members of which relished their notoriety so much that they went on talk shows to bask in the attention.

The Spur Posse were reprehensible scumbags, but they got in trouble for having a contest about how many girls they could screw. These guys are 'notorious' for harassing a lady who was somebody's grandma. Something tells me the public reaction would be different. And FWIW, I just proposed my idea because these kids need to be shamed. Sorry, but some things youy should be ashamed of.
posted by jonmc at 6:34 PM on June 21, 2012


And FWIW, I just proposed my idea because these kids need to be shamed. Sorry, but some things youy should be ashamed of.

Oh, yes -- and for the record I completely agree with you. I, for one, hope these teenagers are publicly excoriated, shamed, and humiliated. You're probably right that the Spur Posse dynamic was totally different.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 7:03 PM on June 21, 2012




There is a campaign to raise money for the guy who created the campaign to help the bus monitor. Right now it's at over $3,000.
posted by Lucinda at 8:02 PM on June 21, 2012


Kony Karen Klien 2012!

Not to make excuses for the little shits, but they obviously have cottoned on to the fact her hearing is impaired and that's why they were brazen enough to bully her so audibly.

It makes for a shocking video though and I hope the targeted lottery win ends up in her hands and that it brings her joy.
posted by panaceanot at 8:03 PM on June 21, 2012


Bullying by children happens because adults let it.

As has been said, QFT. I recently learned that my nephew's Middle School Math teacher had nicknames for a lot of kids - mostly benign stuff like "green notebook" or "coolshoes." His nickname for my nephew was "Bin Laden," and no one called him out on it (unfortunately including my nephew, who was raised to trust teachers). Can you imagine a teacher ever getting away with calling a child "Hitler?" Unfortunately, there is some "teasing" that's considered more acceptable, because hey, even our politicians and leaders tell us to hate Muslims. Doesn't matter if they're a 3rd generation American mutt, whose grandparents were born/raised on 3 different continents, only speaks English, and I'm pretty sure couldn't recite the shahadah, let alone tell you what it is. You got one of them weird ethnicy names, so let's call you out for it and associate it with some totally irrelevant asshole terrorist.

It's no wonder my nephew has gotten relentlessly teased by classmates and peers - those kids absolutely learn it from adults - even from adults we're supposed to trust and look up to.

I know there are many totally amazing teachers who sweat badassry and awesomeness from every pore, but there are some truly batshit ones - who somehow get through, even in supposedly "good schools."
posted by raztaj at 8:06 PM on June 21, 2012


We fled and, naturally, everyone called their parents about Mr. Nicepants freaking out for NO REASON and throwing desks at us and the administration had to deal with 30 students milling around in the hall and parents rushing over to save their kids from Teacher On The Rampage, and the teacher still having a complete meltdown.

Wow. You guys were good. That beats the hell out of my 10th grade class of fuck-ups taking Spanish 1 in a district where almost everyone had started a foreign language in 9th grade at the latest. She was in her mid-50s and at that stage in her career primarily teaching Spanish 5 and 6, we on the other hand, were not particularly interested in learning Español. She had a nervous breakdown, not in class but so we were told, took the following year off and reportedly died.

.

-----

There is a campaign to raise money for the guy who created the campaign to help the bus monitor. Right now it's at over $3,000.

Has anyone yet thought to create a fund to raise money for the guy who started the fund to raise money for the guy who started the fund to raise money for the bus monitor?

I'm just asking cause you know... I could maybe see myself starting up something like that. He sounds like he's a pretty great guy going out of his way to recognize someone who cares. If a couple of thousand people all donated $5 he could get something nice. You know, for his family...

Just thinking out loud here...
posted by BigSky at 8:31 PM on June 21, 2012


That's a great suggestion, BigSky. And for coming up with that idea and being decent enough to propose it, I'm going to start a fund for you, maybe we can get you a new laptop or something.

(And come to think of it, money is a little tight for me right now, and my laptop is showing its age, I certainly don't expect anyone to do anything for me, but if someone were inclined, since after all I am spearheading the fund for BigSky ...)
posted by allnamesaretaken at 8:38 PM on June 21, 2012


You know what, I'm okay with this woman getting a shit-ton of money. Not because she needs a vacation, but because with all of that money she won't have to go back to work there again.

That "nice pants" story just freaked me the shit out.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:28 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


But she says she's not quitting her job. Well, I'd go back *tomorrow*, but probably not after that.
posted by Listener at 9:34 PM on June 21, 2012


$430,000 with 28 days to go. She'll be a millionaire by the time this is all done.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:35 PM on June 21, 2012


Hate to say it, but this could destroy her. Sudden wealth is often not good for people at all. It throws their life out whack, complicates all manner of things, turns family and friends against each other. I sincerely hope she gets some good advice.
posted by philip-random at 11:33 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think you're being a glass-half-empty guy philip-random.

It's not half full or half empty, it's completely full! Air makes up the volume.
Let's see what happens before prognosticating... She seems like a level headed gal.
posted by panaceanot at 12:10 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The collecting money aspect of it really worries me. As does the implication that this is a new thing, an unsusual thing, that "in our day, there was discipline, yada, yada, yada."

So - unusual thing, new thing? Here's a bit of anecdata.

1) There's a woman lives close to us who likes to sit on the wall outside the petrol station and chat to the people passing by. Bit odd, but nothing harmful. She seems nice enough. There's YouTube video of a kid throwing a bucket of water over her and then him and the camera phone operator legging it.

2) We got a fine from the bus company because the eldest(14) had got onto the school bus without a pass and without paying. We asked her, she said she was told to get on without paying; that nobody paid, we asked the bus company, they said that after investigation it turned out the bus driver had essentially been abused by the kids for the last three months and given up trying to keep order or collect money. The bus driver has since had a nervous breakdown and quit her job.

3) Some 30 years ago, when I was at school, the bad teachers were treated mercilessly. If you couldn't keep control you were toast. One teacher was locked in a cupboard with a fire extinguisher. She never came back.

This stuff happens all the time, and it happens because teenage children are sociopathic monsters. The children need to be disciplined, but the internet furore about it presupposes that this is an isolated and strange incident. It's not.

If you're going to collect money, collect it for something useful. Collect it for the elderly in our society, or the disadvantaged. Give it to an anti-bullying charity. But don't give it to some old woman who (like loads of old women before her), lost control of a bus full of children.

If you're going to give money, then give it to something useful. Don't be adding to a quarter million dollar pot of money to be given to one old lady as a Fuck You to some kids you don't even know. Because that's what you're doing. This may look like philanthropy, but it's not. It's a weird passive aggressive thing where you're giving money to one person to hurt the other.

Not only that, but you're fuelling an ugly mob response to what is essentially a local non-story. It isn't nice this woman got abused, but the internet is providing its usual mass hysteria with all the usual outings of phone numbers and threats to people. I fucking hate that these stories are so at the whim of mob behaviour. That every month there's a new story goes viral so internet people can be sniffy and popular and prove to everyone that they are good people.

Sigh.

I'm aware by the way that I'm adding to this by commenting. But anyway - we should know better on metafilter. The more I think about it, the more it disgusts me that we're even giving this story time.
posted by zoo at 12:11 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Zoo... Nobody is saying she should be elected president, but the magnified focus of part of the internet would like to throw money her way to compensate for the abusive behaviour on show in the video hate piece. It's just human empathy, and I'm surprised you are 'disgusted' by the giving rather than the taking.
posted by panaceanot at 12:19 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


panaceanot: It's not about compensation any more. If it was about compensation, people would see that she had enough for her holiday and they'd not contribute. Or they'd contribute to a wider (but linked) charity.

This is an out of control viral rampage which is more about the "internet":
- proving how much money it can collect. Showing off, essentially.
- Shoving some kid's faces in it.
- following along with the majority.

It's not about empathy. If $6000 were collected and sent off, it may have been about empathy. But this has drifted away from empathy and mutated into something broken and ugly.
posted by zoo at 12:34 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The children need to be disciplined

No, we need to teach them compassion. Too much discipline can make a cruel person even crueler, and it can make a very smart person seek out the cracks and crevices in the system where they can run rampant over others.
posted by hermitosis at 12:42 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


How is it broken and ugly? I fully expect her to pay it forward and donate a bunch of if to charity on her terms. And even if she doesn't, and simply lives on the proceeds and passes it on to her children and grandchildren, well at least they're very likely to be advocates against bullying.

The Facebook IPO was broken, ugly and disgusting... This is a wierd spring sprout pushing up through the dry earth and I personally want to soo MORE MORE MORE of it.
posted by panaceanot at 12:42 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


...and if this lady doesn't deserve a windfall amount of money, then the captains of capitalism don't either.

And they don't.

I think the internet is merely fighting absurd with absurd.
posted by panaceanot at 12:59 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It doesn't really make sense to compare a woman being given money to broken capitalism. That's just rhetoric.

You call this a weird spring sprout, but it isn't really. From Sweet Fanny Adams to Aberfan (maybe a bad example) to Kony, to this and the funny-junk story, society has always shown a capacity to suddenly start obsessing on one particular story.

The Internet speeds it up and internationalises it for sure, but it's nothing new.

With the good, comes the bad. What started off as a desire to collect $3,000 has changed into 1/2 a million dollars of donations and my aforementioned publishing of personal details about the students. (phone numbers, etc)

It's hysteria, and in any number of ways it's damaging hysteria.

Let's look at what she does with the money. Here's hoping that she does give the majority of it to a "worthwhile" charity. If she starts spending it on stuff people don't like, she'll find the good will given to her evaporates really quickly. It only takes one person to discover that she's spending the money on fur coats or getting teenage girls to abstain, and suddenly it's her having pizzas delivered to her door 24/7.

You probably don't know about Aberfan, but my father does. A mud slide killed a large number of children, and the donations flooded in. So far, so good. There were a few irregularities with how the money was managed, but with hindsight it was handled OK. But you talk to the people who donated money in 1966, and they'll tell you how angry they were after the money had been given. It was being wasted, it was being given to the wrong people, it had caused the community to splinter and fight against itself.

I'm not sure how much of this is true, but the underlying message is simple. If *we* send you money, and it's more money than maybe you deserve then *we* own you.

I started in on this thread with a basic point. The bullying by children is abhorrent but it is not abnormal. This applies to so many things we get excited about.

Rich artist doesn't pay taxes: Abhorrent, but not abnormal.
Racist woman on train: Abhorrent, but not abnormal.
Children bullying older people or other children: Abhorrent, but not abnormal.
Cruelty towards an animal: Abhorrent, but not abnormal.

We need to start trying to work out how to take filters and behaviours we've honed for small communities and thinking about how they fit into a connected world. Until that happens, we're going to see an increase in a behaviour where we're increasingly whipped up and over-react (however honorably) to the current Terrible Thing Of The Day.
posted by zoo at 2:19 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bullying is the basest expression of the desire for power.

To desire power is not a shameful thing. You need some amount of power in order to stay fed and sheltered. Some amount of power to send a bit of money to this woman.

Middle schoolers have few options for how to get power. If they have jobs, they're shit jobs that pay little money that they might get some cool toys with, but they can't really do anything to change their home situation with it, they can't hire a tutor that would make their schooling worth a damn, they can't move, etc.

The power to ruin somebody's day might not be much, but it's what they can get, so they take it.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:53 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well I am dumbfounded that the person in charge of keeping order on the bus is so poorly equipped for the job.

We didn't have bus monitors until I was in HS, after a little girl got run over at her kindergarten stop... she had dropped a toy under the bus after getting off.

The bus monitor's job is to make sure the kids make it on and off the bus safely - look under the back wheels and check in front of the bumper where the blind spot is, make sure the kids who are crossing the street make it safely to the other side, etc. Keeping order was usually a bus driver thing, mostly because the monitors, as have been noted above, are usually retired people with a sweet disposition.

So the little shits were abusing the woman who made sure they made it on and off the bus safely everyday.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:19 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


zoo, I agree with most of your argument, but then I also have little problem with this woman cashing in big time.

I don't agree that this money could do better. If this woman didn't get it, it would be sitting in a bank or otherwise wasted. The people donating can have no objection--it's perfectly clear where their money is going.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:07 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't read the whole thread yet, but: with the increasing awareness and concern on bullying--and the willingness to hire monitors--why don't school buses have fisheye webcams and condenser mics hooked up to a looping DVR good for a days routes? For better or worse these kids respect the disembodied panopticon more than someone like Karen. Might as well make use of the structures they've internalized.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:18 AM on June 22, 2012


And how about a Reddit drive to so equip underfunded disricts with such equipment?
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:19 AM on June 22, 2012


The donations have topped $500,000.00 and continue to climb. Have a nice retirement, Karen.
posted by Outlawyr at 9:25 AM on June 22, 2012


why don't school buses have fisheye webcams and condenser mics hooked up to a looping DVR good for a days routes? For better or worse these kids respect the disembodied panopticon more than someone like Karen.

At the beginning of this other viral outrageous-schoolbus-misconduct video, the main offender is seen gesturing at the camera and delivering a round of "fuck yous" to all of the administrators who may be watching the camera.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 9:42 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's look at what she does with the money. Here's hoping that she does give the majority of it to a "worthwhile" charity.

I hope the worthwhile charity she gives it to is helping a 68 year old woman retire by setting up a nice endowment account for her. That would be best of all, IMO.
posted by hippybear at 9:46 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is an older Gawker article, but it notes that Klein earns less than $16,000 a year at her job as a bus monitor.
posted by zarq at 9:46 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Errrr... New York Magazine article.
posted by zarq at 9:47 AM on June 22, 2012


It's not about empathy. If $6000 were collected and sent off, it may have been about empathy. But this has drifted away from empathy and mutated into something broken and ugly.
posted by zoo at 2:34 AM on June 22 [+] [!]


Hey, it was well over $100k went I sent my donation. With all due respect, stop telling me my motivation.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:54 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


At the beginning of this other viral outrageous-schoolbus-misconduct video, the main offender is seen gesturing at the camera and delivering a round of "fuck yous" to all of the administrators who may be watching the camera.


good? The camera clearly documented the student's disregard and misconduct. Admins have evidence. The flouting aspect is made more dramatic. If responded to effectively the monitoring will discourage followers and isolate instigators. How is that not better than Karen?

This is one anecdote, and doesn't even discredit the utility of monitoring in that the idea is to capture misconduct, which we already expect will occur. After all, Karen was a " monitor," supposedly there to protect other kids. Instead she becomes a target, partially related to the social status of being a human in this job. She had no authority to respond. Given that infelicity, it would be better to do the passive monitoring function in a way that doesn't invite it to be undermined.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:50 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not about empathy. If $6000 were collected and sent off, it may have been about empathy. But this has drifted away from empathy and mutated into something broken and ugly.
posted by zoo at 2:34 AM on June 22 [+] [!]
zoo, I think it is more likely about solidarity. "I say with my five dollar donation that I think what was done to you is wrong." It doesn't really matter how much was given previously.

Also, you bemoan the fact that these "abhorrent but not abnormal" situations get huge attention, but, in fact, it is easier and more effective to draw attention--and thus start a dialog that may lead to change--to one specific abhorrent incident, than to speak in generics. Or maybe you think nothing changes ever so it's best not to talk about such things?

Also, since you mentioned animal cruelty in your "abhorrent but not abnormal" list of things that cause futile and disproportionate upset on the internet. That reminded me that Luka Magnotta (the Canadian porn-star cannibal/murderer) had posted a video of himself killing kittens a year earlier, which had started a (smaller) internet furor, with animal lovers trying to track him down and get him arrested. If they had been successful, he might not have had an opportunity to murder Jun Lin.

That said, I'm all for expressing outrage and solidarity for Ms. Klein, but I think the harrassment of the specific bullies is just another form of bullying.
posted by boo at 10:53 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I gave as it was crossing the $400K mark, which was after Southwest's offer for a free Disneyland vacation was announced but also after I had seen confirmation from Indiegogo that the funds would be delivered to Klein. Clearly, it was no longer about providing her with a nice vacation at that point but it also was not because I wanted to say "fuck you" to those kids. With a half a million dollars, one could line that bus route with signs calling out those kids but if the fundraiser had been so pitched, would as many have contributed? I wouldn't have done.

Some of the practical implications of this scale of giving do worry me and I also hope that she gets some good, professional advice about how to handle this sudden influx of cash. At 68, she is almost guaranteed to be receiving Social Security; does she know that she should report this income to them and that she will lose her check, or have to repay it if she does receive it, for the month in which she receives the proceeds? Is she prepared to set aside at least half of the funds to pay her taxes next year, as this will bump her into the highest tax bracket for 2012? Will she be able to handle, as some have pointed out above, how the sudden windfall will likely subject her to additional pressures from family, friends, and assorted random idiots trying to get at a piece of her pie?

But then I also consider why might she still be working at her age, at such an unforgiving job for a pretty low salary. I surmise that she may need this in order to supplement her fixed income. I think how difficult it would be for her to get hired elsewhere at her age. I see how she might feel a bit trapped.

One of the most amplifying aspects of the impact of bullying is a victim's inability (perceived or otherwise) to escape the situation. Bullied kids understand this innately, and those of us who have been bullied will remember that. But I don't think we consider it as much when the victim is an adult; we tend to feel that people should take responsibility for their lives at that point, and simply remove themselves from these terrible scenarios. Sometimes it's not that easy.

As many have pointed out, the amount of donations at this point could likely allow Klein to retire. However, as it has been reported that she has worked for the district for 25 years, my guess is there are probably other facets of the job that are rewarding to her (though again, it could just have been necessary to her ability to support herself).

What this amount of money does is give her the ability to choose at any time whether to stay or go. Having that choice available resets the power balance for her. If she continues to do this job, she will no longer have to do so feeling as if she has no other option but to sit back and take such abuse.

If one wishes to only express empathy for Klein, a card or an email or a kind facebook post will suffice. This level of giving, if considered merely as a blow-out vacation fund or the gift of an early retirement, could certainly seem excessive. I contributed so that I could be part of an effort to break the shackles of her situation, to remove an enforced focus on obtaining supplemental income, and to restore her freedom of choice about how best to spend her remaining years in pursuit of happiness.
posted by SpaceBass at 10:58 AM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Who knew the court of public opinion would also be able to award damages?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:32 AM on June 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


After all, Karen was a " monitor," supposedly there to protect other kids.

No, as has been explained, a bus monitor isn't there to monitor children's behavior, but to act as a second set of eyes for the Bus Driver as kids get on and off the bus. Her job is to get off the bus, watch traffic to make sure it's safe for kids to cross the street, make sure there are no kids lingering in front of the bus in the driver's blind spot, and then to go around back to make sure no-one has fallen under the bus and that the wheels are all clear. During the ride, they make sure no-one is choking, and they have been trained in basic first aid in case a kid hurts themselves. They're about safety, not security.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:37 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who knew the court of public opinion would also be able to award damages?

It is rather absurd at this point. I mean, I'm still hurting from bullshit I had to endure from the older kid three doors down more than forty years ago. Please direct me to where I can state my case, because I figure if Karen's ordeal is worth in excess of a half a million bucks, I'm due at least a hundred thousand.

Seriously, I once went to school with two black eyes.

Of course, I got one of them from little brother being an idiot with a plastic baseball bat but that didn't stop me from pointing at Peter R___ when questioned about it by the Principal.
posted by philip-random at 11:43 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll be curious if they can legally get that much money to her via indiegogo. Seems like there has to be some massive tax implications.
posted by mattbucher at 11:45 AM on June 22, 2012


I'll be curious if they can legally get that much money to her via indiegogo. Seems like there has to be some massive tax implications.

The internet rabble is one step ahead of ya: There was a petition to Obama to waive the income tax on the donations.

But the person who posted the petition wrote a note saying he's been assured by tax professionals that there are no taxes on the money, as long as no individual donation exceeds a certain amount. Which is great, if true.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 12:07 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


After all, Karen was a " monitor," supposedly there to protect other kids.

No, as has been explained, a bus monitor isn't there to monitor children's behavior, but to act as a second set of eyes for the Bus Driver as kids get on and off the bus. Her job is to get off the bus, watch traffic to make sure it's safe for kids to cross the street, make sure there are no kids lingering in front of the bus in the driver's blind spot, and then to go around back to make sure no-one has fallen under the bus and that the wheels are all clear. During the ride, they make sure no-one is choking, and they have been trained in basic first aid in case a kid hurts themselves. They're about safety, not security.


right. Her active role was not to respond to this. With regard to responding this kind of behavior she's a passive observer, or a victim. She's less useful than a DVR for addressing bullying given her job role, because she's another vulnerable target and as an observer she's not an impartial lump of circuits with a perfect digital memory impervious to parental comebacks. Thus the counterexample of the kid giving the camera the finger doesn't really show that passive monitoring of that kind isn't worthwhile.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:26 PM on June 22, 2012


Southwest's offer for a free Disneyland vacation ...

And that offer is 'all-expenses paid' for her and 9 others. She said they'll all be family members.
posted by ericb at 12:43 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now at $543,773!
“Never have we seen a campaign raise this much money this quickly in less than 36 hours,” Indiegogo.com CEO Slava Rubin told NBC News.*
posted by ericb at 12:46 PM on June 22, 2012


It is rather absurd at this point.

Then you should be sure to read my new book: The Emerging Global Idiocracy
posted by KokuRyu at 12:50 PM on June 22, 2012


If it's absurd, it's in a good way. Unforgettable. Houses I saw on real estate sites in her general area cost little for a lot. She's set for life, and that's nice. The $ amount is high because the issue pushes so many buttons for so many people with so many hurts. It's past time to really change this bullying shit in the world, but that shouldn't take away from her good fortune. How she spends it is a personal issue of little significance in the world, though definitely something to pique curiosity.
posted by Listener at 2:16 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


How do we know she didn't already have a sizable nest egg? I know lots of lower middle class folks that age that have socked away large retirement accounts.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:18 PM on June 22, 2012


Americans can now feel good by picking one random person to save from the brutal system. Orwell didn't think up this democratic twist to Oceania's national lottery but it's a good one.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:25 PM on June 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


If it's absurd, it's in a good way.

Good or bad is kind of beside the point, I think.

It's absurd because it has no functional connection to our world full of problems. And it's a good idea to keep this in focus.

This is how shit now happens in our hyperconnected age. Minor event (and it really would be minor if there hadn't been a camera there; none of us would ever have heard of it) inspires a massive feedback response, which, however beneficent and heartfelt, is completely out of kilter with what actually happened. I mean, how many wells can you dig for half a million dollars? How many schools can you build? How many mouths can you feed?

What I love about it is the light it sheds on much power we all have to effect real and meaningful change (anybody with an extra few bucks in their pocket). What frustrates me about it is how randomly fortuitous it all is, almost a definition of chaos.
posted by philip-random at 2:28 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Regarding any absurdity, randomness of one being 'picked' to benefit financially, I think of it this way: Every day there are hordes of people who plop down $1, $5, and for some others a lot more money in the hopes of winning a state lottery by their purchases of scratch tickets, QuickPik drawings, etc. Essentially, mindless and, basically, selfish outlays of money.

Here we have the converse. Thousands, tens of thousands and possibly millions of people who felt good about laying out cash -- however small -- to 'make a difference.' All anonymous donors, all with good intentions and no expectation of personal reward beyond the realization that you've been able to help someone poorly treated.

A random act of kindness, indeed!

P.S. And, yes, I realize there really are kids in India, as well as here in the States and around the globe, who went to bed hungry tonight.

Now, FINISH your peas, or no desert for you tonight!
posted by ericb at 4:15 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a sick feeling that people are going to start picking her life apart now. A backlash.
posted by merelyglib at 9:29 PM on June 22, 2012


Bullying is just such a hotbutton for so many.

I am a high school teacher, and if asked I would say that I honestly don't believe that bullying is a problem at my school. Unfortunately this also ties in with the common complaint that "teachers didn't care". What is I am perceived as not caring because I have no idea what is going on?

My wife and I have mild debates over our bullying as we have an infant son. I don't expect him to be a target of bullying (but who does, I suppose?), but I will instruct him to respond with savage violence if it ever comes to it.
posted by davey_darling at 5:57 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


So she will probably retire, after all (article not particularly worth reading, but she seems to have come to that decision).
posted by Listener at 11:14 AM on June 23, 2012


Well, I don't think there will be any complaints that these kids weren't punished severely enough:

Students who bullied N.Y. bus monitor are suspended for a year
posted by The Gooch at 8:17 PM on June 29, 2012


"I am so sorry for the way I treated you," Josh wrote. "When I saw the video I was disgusted and could not believe I did that. I am sorry for being so mean and I will never treat anyone this way again."

"Bullied Bus Monitor Karen Klein Doesn't Accept Boys' Apologies"

Its up to $680,035.

"Do you accept the apologies the kids have written to you?"

"No, not really."

Good gravy, Karen. It's a softball. Don't fuck it up. (Though playing to the vigilantes in the crowd has proven to be very profitable so far.)

I want to know if these kids had ever been disciplined before. One year suspension is probably wise for their safety, but it also seems ridiculously harsh.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:57 AM on July 9, 2012


Unremarkable people all around, really. It's weird what captures our attention as a race.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:03 PM on July 9, 2012


Suspended for a *year*? Not being allowed on the bus, fine; community service, fine. But losing out on school for a year is absurd. They were, what, 13 and 14 years old? How is this going to help them?
posted by jeather at 12:10 PM on July 9, 2012


That CNN article doesn't say, but I suspect that their suspension also entails them reporting to the district or area's alternative learning center to continue their schooling for next year. I think it's a bit much, but then again it may send a message to kids to think twice about joining bullying.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:20 PM on July 9, 2012


In the CNN article it says: "The students will be transferred to the district Reengagement Center" ... which is an alternative site. "Reengagement Center" suggests a program that provides counseling and support that's typically used to help students with behavior problems transition back into regular school from expulsion, long-term suspension, juvie, etc. It can also be a supportive placement for students on a longer-term suspension or expulsion. (We call ours a "transition program.")

Aha, from the district's website: "This one-stop program provides full-day services for students and families requiring academic, behavioral, social skills and community service support to get back on track for success in high school. Students who have experienced persistent failure in the middle grades, or who have been placed on long-term suspension will be referred to the Center, which will be located at the Alcott Road site in conjunction with the Family Support Center. The alternative education program will serve up to 18 students initially and may be expanded in the future. Placement in the program is made by the Assistant Superintendent for Schools."

Typically it features smaller class sizes, credit recovery and "catch-up," behavioral, mental health, and physical health services, etc. Even when students are expelled, districts these days try to keep them in a program of some sort, because first, not many students have an at-home parent to sit at home with them all day anymore and unsupervised kids who got in enough trouble to get expelled are going to find more trouble wandering the streets; and second, it doesn't help anyone when children with serious problems are simply removed from school and not educated during the interim. (And third, even expelled students have a right to a free appropriate public education, with some caveats.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:10 PM on July 9, 2012


I think it's a bit much, but then again it may send a message to kids to think twice about joining bullying.

Doubtful. The only message here for kids is "don't record your abhorrent behavior on video."
posted by mrgrimm at 1:39 PM on July 9, 2012


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