‘Tis pity she’s a school bus monitor. (At least Karen Klein can call it quits now.)
The ‘net has been agog the last few days with news about Karen Klein, the 68 year old upstate NY school bus monitor who was so ferociously and mercilessly bullied by a pack of middle schoolers. If you haven’t watched the video, I can assure you that it is profoundly disturbing.
The kids pull out all the stops, haranguing Klein for her weight, her hearing aid, her clothing, her presumed poverty. They threaten her life. They even get in a jab or two about her son who committed suicide. All delivered with a profanity icing on the bullying cake. And all, of course, recorded by one of the gang, later to be posted online so the whole world can share in the good, clean fun.
Then there’s the demeanor of Klein herself.
She is clearly humiliated and upset, crying; just trying to wait it out, make it through the remainder of the ride and the school year. Her pushback is mild – ‘if you can’t say anything nice’ – but it’s clear throughout the video that the bad guys are winning.
I suspect that Klein reacted the way many bullying victims do: just take the ‘this, too, will pass’ attitude. (Maybe if I close my eyes they’ll go away.)
What is peculiar about watching this episode of Bullies Gone Viral, of course, is that the victim is an adult, not a kid. And it’s an adult who was in a position that holds – or should hold – at least a modicum of authority. Presumably, the role of school bus monitor requires the monitor to try to maintain order, make sure the kids refrain from bullying each other, and make sure the school bus driver can do his or her job without being driven to distraction by a pack of howling kids.
If this was part of her job description, Klein’s job performance comes up woefully short.
Not to blame the victim. Apparently, she had reported kids in the past, but gotten nowhere. Apparently, since school was almost out for the summer, she figured ‘why bother.’ Maybe she figured that if she made a more forceful pushback, she’d lose her job. (‘That nasty, mean old-lady bus monitor pushed me and swore at me. Mommy, make her stop.’ Sniff, sniff.)
And it’s hard to imagine that any 68 year old is working as a school bus monitor as a fun and enjoyable way to capstone a career that’s winding down. In all likelihood, Klein needs to stretch her Social Security and/or whatever miniscule pension she earned as a school bus driver for 20 years.
I hate to be looks-ist, but Karen Klein sure doesn’t look like someone who’s sitting on a lushly endowed 401K, working as a school bus monitor to kill time when she’s not doing more glamorous things.
Things are now looking up for Karen Klein.
As the video chronicling the verbal assault on her went viral, Klein found herself being interviewed all over the place: CNN, Fox, TMZ, People….
She’s going to Disneyland, courtesy of Southwest Airlines.
And someone who felt badly for her set up an online fund raiser, and, as of the weekend, over $600K (tax free) had been raised for Karen.
So maybe now she can quit her job as a school bus monitor, which clearly didn’t play to her forte to begin with.
Meanwhile, a couple of the bully boys have tendered apologies, which Klein has not (yet) accepted. (“They can do better…”) I agree with her. How about an in-person sit down, rather than a note? But I hope this doesn’t turn out to be some prolonged birther-style thing, during which no apology will ever be sufficient.
As for the kids themselves.
Yes, yes, yes. This is a tough age. Kids act in packs. They don’t think about consequences. They’re playing to each other. The strong intimidate the week. Everyone’s safe as long as the bullies are after someone else. It has always been thus. Lord of the Flies. They’re not bad kids.
Maybe not. Actually, probably not. What they probably are is spoiled, show-offy, self-centered, weak. They don’t cringe when Simon Cowell puts someone down; they think it’s funny. (If he’s putting someone else down, he’s not attacking them…) They probably watch all kinds of reality shows that glorify nitwits who are singularly devoid of any positive attributes, and who will say or do anything to maintain their status as a celebrity. They [we’re back to the kids, now] probably think everything in life should be videoed and uploaded, as long as they’re the ones being featured. (Look at me, I’m famous. 1.4 million hits on YouTube. Awesome!)
I do hope these kids learn something about compassion, empathy, otherness, and common decency from this episode. And I hope this doesn’t end up haunting them for life. Their names are out there, so anyone googling them for college admissions, a possible job, or even a date, will be able to find them. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there really should be a statute of limitations on the reckless, wanton, and asinine things you do when you’re very young. There is a reason why they seal juvenile records. Too bad nothing gets sealed on the Internet.
All this said, my reaction on seeing the video was a keen desire to slap those kids up and down the side of their heads. To slap the not-so-smartphone out of the video-ing kid’s hand and crush it under my foot. To get right in their grills, matching f-bomb for f-bomb – hey, I can’t get fired – and grabbing the phones I hadn’t crushed under foot and speed dialing mommy and daddy to ask ‘do you know what you’re precious son has been doing for the last 10 minutes?’
I wanted to turn to the “good kids” who were passively sitting by while all this happened and tell them that the bad guys only win when the good guys do nothing. That, if this ever happens again, I can guarantee them that they’ll feel better afterwards if they do something, anything. Even though it will be scary, and the bullies can easily turn on them. I’d explain that there’s safety in numbers. I’d Todd Beamer them: Let’s roll.
I also wanted to take the seat next to Karen Klein, shielding her from these nasty, crappy-acting kids. To put my arm around her, and tell her ‘you don’t deserve this shit.’ And ‘don’t let those pathetic dweebs get to you.’
And now she doesn’t have to.
$600K is a lot of yearly earnings for a school bus monitor, so I’m guessing that Karen Klein can pack it in.
Hopefully, the money won’t run right through her fingers, that her kids and grandkids don’t manage to gouge it all, leaving her in continued need of some additional income, however meager it is.
If, for whatever reason, Karen Klein does decide to keep working, I sincerely hope that she finds something that will play to her strengths better than school bus monitor.
In Greece, NY, that job apparently requires someone who trained at Parris Island. Going Gandhi clearly does not work.