“It’s a rite of passage.” “It’s just boys being boys.” “I was bullied when I was a kid and it was no big deal.”
Fortunately, ignorant statements like these have been being shot down over the last few years, but there are still those who believe them. The truth of the matter is that bullying extends way beyond just a couple of kids in the schoolyard. And now, we have an example of exactly that truth.
We have Ms. Karen Klein, an elderly adult in a position of authority no less, being relentlessly abused by children on a school bus. Bullies do indeed bully everyone, not just other kids. Bullying is just one ‘flavor’ of abuse, and abusive behavior is a widespread societal issue these days.
The four boys who were caught on tape abusing Klein have been suspended from public school for a year (which means they have been placed in an "alternate" learning environment outside of the normal public school system), have been given 50 hours of community service and have been enrolled into a bullying prevention program. Would that all bullies were handled like this. There would be much less of it going around. I think it’s very appropriate and a great start.
It’s a certainty that this isn’t the first and only time these boys have abused someone. It’s probably just the first time they’ve been caught doing it. Or, more likely, they have been caught before, but now that an elderly woman was the recipient of the abuse, it couldn’t be ignored as it is so often when it’s "just" other children on the receiving end. If these consequences were imposed on these lads for past bullying incidents, this particular situation probably would never have happened.
I’m concerned that the focus of this story has now turned to the nearly $700,000 that has been raised for Karen Klein. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a wonderful gesture on the part of the public to do this. But we can’t simply give everyone who is bullied and abused a gift because we feel bad for them. We need to do more. We need to be proactive. We need to do whatever we can to prevent this type of behavior before it happens. You can’t just “pay off” trauma.
One thing we can do to really turn this around is to start holding the parents at least partially responsible in situations like these. Alarms need to go off when a situation like this occurs. Statistics show that there is a very high probability, edging on certainty, that one or both of the parents of each of these children are abusive themselves.
Children learn what they live. That’s just a fact. My experience, coupled with the experience of many others, show that when children are "hard core" abusers like we have here, it indicates that someone in the home is role modeling that abusive behavior. Either directly — through abusing the children themselves — or by abusing the spouse, or both. The parents must be held accountable for some amount of responsibility in this incident.
At the very least, the parents should be investigated by some sort of social services bureau for abuse in the family. Further, the parents should be required to foot the bill for the alternate education their children are required to receive because they can’t seem to act with respect and civility towards other people.
And at the very least, the parents should be required to attend the exact same Bully Prevention Program as their children. It’s time to acknowledge, accept and deal with one of the primary sources of children that bully and abuse others — the parents.