Bullies & the Bus Monitor

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Photo by bsabarnowl via Flickr

Have you seen the video of middle school kids tormenting their 60-some-year-old bus monitor?

The story of Karen, the bus monitor, and her 10-minute verbal assault has gone viral. Scores of sympathetic people have raised over $140,000 to send Karen on a vacation, and national news outlets are interviewing Karen today.

I couldn’t watch the entire video; three minutes was about all I could stand. What struck me most about the video was that her bullies were CHILDREN — middle school children, at that — who were spewing such hateful, mean language.

The next thing that struck me was the contrast between this bus situation and my 2010 experience chaperoning a bus full of middle schools kids. My oldest son had asked me to chaperone the junior high show choir’s bus trip to Six Flags, and I agreed. With trepidation. I said yes because he was my son, but inwardly, I was dreading the thought of chaperoning a bus full of middle school kids. I expected rowdiness and clique-y behavior, and kids who didn’t want to listen to adults. I expected a struggle.

Instead, I witnessed some of the most respectful behavior I have ever seen out of a group of kids. The kids were polite. They were nice to each other, and to the adults. They even picked up all of their garbage!

A lot of the credit, I know, goes to their director, who insists on respectful behavior. He teaches the kids music and dance, but underneath it all is a strong current of character development. Kids in his program quickly learn that good behavior is not optional. As a parent, I appreciate the help. Anyone who insists upon — and models — respect, hard work and persistence is A-OK in my book.

But schools can’t do it alone. I don’t know the stories of the kids’ on Karen’s bus, but I’m willing to bet that many of them have heard similar disparaging and disrespectful words at home or in their communities. So please…

  • Continue to use nice words at home. Speak kindly to your children, and insist (to the best of your ability) that they do the same.
  • Be nice to everyone in your community — the checkers at the grocery store, the old lady walking her dog, even the guy who cuts you off in traffic.
  • Assume the best about people, while maintaining a healthy sense of boundaries.
  • Teach your children to see the humanity in others.

I can’t stop a busload of kids in New York from bullying a senior citizen. But I can take steps, here in my home and my community, to ensure that my kids will never do the same.

How do you teach your kids respectful behavior?

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