Okay, I know you guys have heard about this one. Last week, Greece, NY bus monitor Karen Klein was harassed and bullied by 4 kids (and some helpful soul got the whole thing on video). You can read about the story and see the video (Andy Cooper is also on this page being cute) here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/21/karen-klein-bullying-video-bullies-apologize-to-bus-monitor_n_1617404.html. The kids were really mean to Karen, calling her a “fat troll” and going so far as to play with her arm waddle. The internet reacted. As of today, over 400,000 dollars has been raised to “send Karen on vacation,” and Southwest Airlines is sending Karen (and 9 other people of her choosing) on a 3-day all-expenses-paid trip to Disneyland. Karen Klein is big news, WHY? Is it because kids are assholes, or is it because Karen Klein was incapable of doing her job?
Let me break it down for you, folks. I read the Greece Central School District Code of Conduct. You can, too, if you download it here: http://www.greece.k12.ny.us/staff.cfm?subpage=1587. The students on Karen’s bus were clearly in violation of several parts of the C of C, namely:
B. Engage in conduct that is insubordinate. Examples include (but are not limited to):
1. Failing to comply with the reasonable directions of teachers, school administrators or other school employees in charge of students or otherwise demonstrating disrespect
D. Engage in any conduct that endangers the safety, morals, health, or welfare of others. Examples include (but are not limited to):
8. Bullying, which is purposeful, aggressive, negative repeated, and unwelcomed harassment and/or attacks on others where there is an imbalance of power and can include behaviors such as physical violence, verbal taunts, name-calling and put-downs, or threats and intimidation.
And these aren’t their only infringements. According to the by-laws, students who are guilty of these offenses face disciplinary action that can range from a verbal warning all to way through suspension. It is completely within the power of the Greece, NY School District’s Department of Transportation to put these kids off the bus, and make their parents responsible for taking the kids to and from school. All that has to happen is that the bus driver or monitor has to issue a complaint.
So, yes, the kids were wrong. But let’s discuss for a minute, exactly what the responsibilities of a BUS MONITOR are. A generally accepted job description for a bus monitor/attendant reads as follows:
– Monitors conduct of students on school bus to maintain discipline and safety.
– Directs loading of students on bus to prevent congestion and unsafe conditions.
– Rides school bus to prevent altercations between students and damage to bus.
– Participates in school bus safety drills.
– May disembark from school bus at railroad crossings and clear bus across tracks.
Karen Klein is paid around $15,000 dollars/year to discharge these duties. What did Karen Klein do to maintain discipline in this situation? Did she warn the kids of the consequences of their actions – getting kicked off the bus, or maybe even suspension? No. Did she separate the trouble makers? Nope. Did she inform the bus driver that there was a situation and request his help in stopping it? Uh uh. Karen Klein sat there and took it, which is NOT handling the situation in the way that the guidelines of her job specify. What guidelines, you ask? The ones set in place by the New York State Department of Education Transportation Department. According to the NYSED.gov website, bus monitors/attendants in NY State are REQUIRED to have at least 10 hours of training prior to starting their regular work – and that training involves conflict resolution and discipline. In addition, school bus monitors/ attendants receive TWO MANDATORY 2 HOUR REFRESHER COURSES ANNUALLY. You can read all about New York State regulations at www.nysed.gov.
Karen Klein chose to handle the situation in a manner not indicated by the protocols of her job. Imagine if someone else did this in a different situation. What if a Taco Bell manager just suddenly decided to ignore the regulations and save money by not refrigerating the mystery meat? Would someone send him on a dream vacation to Cancun? I don’t think so. Bottom line: Karen Klein seems like a nice lady, and the kids were jerks and deserve to be punished – BUT Karen Klein wasn’t doing her job, and she shouldn’t get rewarded for her negligence. If she had been acting according to the rules CLEARLY SET OUT FOR HER, the scenario would have been much different. The incident never would have escalated, the offenders would have been punished, and life would have gone on. Now, it’s national news and hokey morning tv hosts are fake crying about how bad they would feel if this happened to their grandmother. URRGH. Karen Klein wasn’t an innocent bystander. She was a PAID employee who was TRAINED to handle events exactly like this one – training, I might add, that was paid for WITH STATE REVENUES. She is not the fucking Rosa Parks of bullying. Get over it.
One other note: I rode the bus growing up. It was 10 miles from the town we went to school in to where many of us lived. If we acted up on the bus, our mean old tobacco chewing bus driver would drop us off on the highway, deliver all the other kids, drive 10 miles back to the bus barn and THEN call our parents to pick us up. We generally would have made it about 3 miles before anyone came and got us, usually crying the whole way. This was a deterrent so effective that even when the retarded kid in the front seat, Jeremy, got totally (and very quietly) naked – which he did quite often – not one of us would so much as make a peep about it. We were a bunch of total creeps, and believe me – we were tempted, but not enough to risk the walk home in a -18 degree wind chill. Kelly grew up in Mississippi and also rode the bus. She said that if kids acted up on the ride, they were immediately hauled into the principal’s office for a paddlin’ when they got to school. Also a good deterrent.
The problem here isn’t that kids are bigger assholes now than they have been in the past. Kids have always been dicks, and always will be. The problem is that ADULTS ARE BIGGER PUSSIES NOW THAN THEY EVER HAVE BEEN. We put up with shit from our kids that would have gotten US whupped into oblivion had we tried it. We’ve been whining for some 40 years about proper child rearing techniques like dialoguing and crap, and what’s the result? It’s that we now have a nation of 12 year old unrepentant shit heads. Kids will always try to test limits and expand boundaries – they will also try to claim as much power from adults as they possibly can, and they’ll abuse power at every opportunity. THAT IS HOW KIDS ARE. It’s the adult’s responsibility to be firm and discipline kids when necessary. I’m not saying that we should make children cut their own switches (although I did it, and let me tell you, trying to find the branch on the Willow tree that’s going to hurt the least is an experience unto itself), but we do need to make sure that kids know that being bad has consequences WHICH TOTALLY SUCK. This is the job of anyone in charge of a kid, whether it be a daycare provider, an aunt, a parent, a teacher, a pastor – or a bus monitor. The kids will improve – if we do.
To All You Mainstream Media Assholes: It took me under an hour to find all of this information online. Had you folks done YOUR jobs with appropriate due diligance, you would have found it, too. Instead, you chose to make a national martyr of a woman who is pretty much just a crappy employee. I guess tears sell more car ads than reasoned, rational journalism. Nice one.