Dear Readers,

Today’s blog is completely different from my normal blogging style.  Usually I try to bring you the witty day-to-day goings on of my family and, specifically, with my children.  But I saw a story on The Today Show this morning that has me so angry that I can’t seem to think past it.  I’m so angry I’m literally in tears, and I’m having trouble finding any humor to share.  Instead, I bring you an editorial.  If you prefer to read a  humorous story, please come back tomorrow…I’m sure I can accommodate by then.  But for today, I can only bring you what’s weighing heavily in my heart and mind.

Karen Klein

In Rochester, New York, 68 year old grandmother and school bus monitor, Karen Klein, was subjected to the most horrible bullying and bad behavior by “children” I think I’ve ever seen.

Mrs. Klein is employed by a New York school district to monitor children on the bus and, presumably, provide a level of safety to the children on that bus.  And, in the midst of offering an adult presence and protection, she becomes the focus of unrelenting taunting that leaves this poor woman completely humiliated.

“Your reflexes are so slow, you freakin fat (expletive),” taunted one child.

To that statement, another child interjected, “You have reflexes like an elephant.”

“Oh my god.  Your’e such a (expletive) troll,” taunted a third child.

After several moments of nasty comments, Mrs. Klein finally dissolves into silent tears.  Her humiliation is compounded when one child taunts by asking “Are you sweating?”

“I’m crying,” Mrs. Klein responded.

“Yeah, she probably misses her box of Twinkies,” responds the voice of yet another child.

Altogether, there were three videos with a combined 14 minutes of taunting directed at Mrs. Klein by middle-school children.  Besides the nasty comments, there are children seen poking her in the back of the head as she sits quickly on the bus, doing her best to ignore the taunts directed at her.

As a parent, I’m appalled.  Bullying has become an increasing problem in our school systems, but the actions of these children have reach an all-time low.  Whatever happened to RESPECT or COMMON COURTESY?

Because they’re minors, the identities of these children are protected and kept anonymous.  I can’t help but wonder what type of discipline – if any – is being invoked at home.  Do their parents even care?  How does a child reach the point where he feels JUSTIFIED in taunting ANYONE, but – most especially – an elderly woman whose presence on their bus is for the explicit purpose of providing protection?

Since seeing this story this morning, I’ve given a great deal of thought to how I would handle this situation if – god forbid – one of my children were involved.  First, I’d like to hope that neither of my children would be involved. I’d like to hope that I’ve pounded home the importance of respect for their elders and authority, not to mention the importance of kindness to all people.  But if my children were involved, these are some of the actions I’d be taking at home:

  1. To hell with keeping their identities anonymous.  I would demand of my children both a private and public apology.  I would expect a face-to-face  and heart-felt apology to Mrs. Klein for their atrocious behavior.  If I didn’t feel it was with enough feeling – and sincerity! – they’d keep trying until they got it right.  The second part of this would be a public apology.  Mrs. Klein has been humiliated.  It’s only right that her bullies receive a public face through a public apology.
  2. I would be signing my children up for some type of community service, working with “special needs” individuals…the elderly, the mentally challenged, the homeless…whatever I could find to give my children a better understanding of the world around them.
  3. Any and all sense of “entitlement” would end.  As a parent, I’m required to provide food, shelter and adequate clothing.  Nothing else.  And you can be sure there would be nothing else.  We would turn to hand-me-down, gently used, or whatever other in inexpensive sources for clothing I could find.  No expensive “name brand” or designer clothing that the “in crowd” wears.  There would be no extracurriculars unless those extracurriculars had a focus on philanthropy. No iPods, cell phones, stereos, televisions, vehicles at 16, etc.  It’s time to appreciate the basics.

How long would this discipline last?  I don’t know.  The community service would be indefinite, perhaps continuing through high school.  The one thing these children need more than anything is an understanding for the differences in people, and to learn empathy and respect.

I think Matt Lauer said it best when he called these children, “Narrow-minded monsters” and that their parents should be ashamed of them.

For me, I think this is a vital lesson in the importance of parenting.  We have one chance to instill in our children the importance of being a valuable and contributing member of society.  We have one chance to teach our children that they are not “entitled” to anything, and that respect and compassion for others should be a priority in life.  If we miss that chance, then we’ve failed.  We’ve failed ourselves, we’ve failed our children, and we’ve failed society in general.  I sincerely hope that these parents will take this opportunity to fix whatever is broken so that their children can move past this to become the kind and caring adults that we all want our children to become.

To see The Today Show story and interview that inspired this morning’s rant, follow this link:  Today Show Story about Karen Klein