If you’re like a bazillion other people across the world this morning, you might have caught glimpse of a YouTube video showing an elderly bus monitor sitting through an absurd amount of verbal abuse from a group of middle schoolers.
The 10-minute, brutal video, which was posted Monday and has since gone viral, shows Karen Klein trying to ignore profanity-laced insults and even some physical threats, including the suggestion that her children should commit suicide.
In the good news department, an online fund set up for Klein up on the international fundraising site indiegogo.com (“Karen… deserves a vacation!”) has raked in more than $140,000. Turns out most people find the cruel, relentless taunting of a grandmother disgusting.
Which, I’ll admit, is a relief. Because otherwise this story would just have me depressed for days.
Still, good intentions of the masses aside, the story of Klein should leave some pretty sobering questions – not the least of which is: what’s going to happen to those nasty kids from the Athena Middle School in Greece, New York?
And yes – I just called the kids nasty. I didn’t call them “confused,” or “poorly monitored,” or “immature,” or even “making bad decisions in a group environment.” Because it might just be possible that the culture of excuse making for children – the all-too-common parental belief that nothing their little one does is wrong, or at least is someone else’s fault – helps contribute to an environment where a group of young teens can giggle together while tormenting a senior citizen.
So, I might add, does our public school system.
Now this is a big one – too complex, surely, for a column this morning. But think about it – there’s clearly a problem when a school system basically can’t do anything about a group of middle school kids acting like little monsters. Sure, there have been the requisite comments about the kids’ behavior going against “codes of conduct.” (Um, yeah.) There was talk about “consequences.”
But really, what’s the school going to do? Expelling the kids would send the message – to them, to society, to the parents who then will just have to figure out what to do with a child not fit to exist in a publicly-funded setting with other people. No, we’ve decided as a society that schools can’t have that stick.
So what else to do? Greece school board president Julie VanOrman had an idea – make the incident a “teachable moment.” (Gag. Really?)
"This (incivility) is a problem not just in this district but of the nation, and what are we actually doing about it," she said. "What are we all going to do to make sure this doesn't happen on another bus in another school district tomorrow?" she told the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle.
Nothing. We’re all going to do nothing.
Unless there are real changes in parenting, real changes in school system policies, we will do nothing to make sure this doesn’t happen on another bus tomorrow. And next time it might not go up on YouTube.