Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

21 June 2012

Dear Karen Klein, Please Retire

I'm writing this off of the top of my head, so it may be messy,
but today I saw some of the video of the bullying that occurred
on a school bus in Rome, NY  (outside Rochester), and I felt the need
to write something about it, and post it, if only to join in the outrage
against it.

Now if you haven't seen the video, 
and you feel like being sickened,
go on YouTube;
it seems to have gone so viral
that people are reposting it 
for the attention it brings.  
I will not post that video on this blog.
Or you can read this story, from CNN 
The basic details are these:

Four or five middle schoolers on a school bus
taunted, swore at, jeered, made fun of, 
were absolutely nauseatingly awful
to a 68 year old woman named Karen Klein, 
who was on the bus as a monitor.

Someone took a video of it,
and posted the video on You Tube, and it "went viral."

I watched about 30 seconds of that video,
and it made me sick.  Now, the questions bound up in this video
and its "popularity" are many.  To begin, there's the horrifying question
of who raised kids who would act that way?  Yes, I will also blame the kids; I
like so many others who have commented on this, feel they should be
disciplined, severely.  But, as the saying goes: "the apple doesn't fall too
far from the tree."  I'll come back to this thought in a moment.

I also can't help but wonder who took the video?  That person
was sitting right next to the elderly victim, and the video captures
that woman's reaction: she cried; yes, she cried, as her assaulters
commented on her weight, her glasses, her ears (and then I stopped watching).
Why would someone want to capture that woman's reactions to this,
and then post it on YouTube?  Whatever the
motivation, as one You Tube commenter said,
the internet works fast, and no matter what the poster's intent,
within hours there were people all over the world responding to it with horror.
This included a blogger starting a collection to send this woman, Karen Klein,
on a trip.  I sure hope she just retires.

Now, bullying has been around for a very long time,
especially among children.  There's garden variety bullying,
I think, like my sister as a child teasing me because I was fat
(or so she said) or because I had a lazy eye.  That 
often comes from sibling rivalry.

But bullying has become such a huge issue
in the United States in particular.  A few months ago, just down
the road from Rochester, in Buffalo, NY,  a 14 year old boy
became famous because he committed suicide; he could no longer
tolerate the bullying against him. 

This caused a national campaign against bullying,
but did it make any difference?  

The common feeling about the Karen Klein case is that
these young people should be punished,
but would punishing these kids make any difference?
These kids have no respect for authority --
this woman was on the bus as a monitor,
and they attacked her, so punishing them might just
roll off them like water off a spaniel.
Furthermore, it's only a matter of hours before
their parents and other family members start
posting videos about how their poor, innocent child
is so misunderstood.   Which, let me say immediately,
is just a load of bullshit.  Those kids are perfectly understood
to be messed up.

I tend to think that whatever system
produced kids who felt it was ok to harass
an elder needs to be 
examined very carefully, and changed, immediately  --
and that includes calling to task their parents,
or anyone else who led these kids to feel
that they could gain popularity or respect
by harassing other human beings.
I do tend to feel parents are a huge part of
this sad equation of dysfunction: 
what I hear in these young peoples'
jeers are the jeers of an immature father or mother
who bullied their children with similar insults.

The U.S. education system is at fault, too:
it so wrapped up
in teaching kids to pass a test that it
isn't really paying attention to teaching
human dignity.

And then there's the entertainment industry:
the glorification of bullying and ridiculing through figures
such as Gordon Ramsey, Charlie Sheen, or even cartoon
characters (like those on Family Guy) who ridiculously
become models for human interaction.

The problem is very very deep, and it's only going to get worse
unless we all take responsibility for it now.
I'm going to have to teach some of these kids in university,
and I will say right here and now that it's already happening:
a year ago, I had a young woman in a university level English class
who took great delight in taunting me, calling me "stupid" in front of her peers,
and writing on her final course evaluation that I was just ugly
and she hated coming to class and looking at me.
Of course, she never did her classwork, and also
wasted precious class time by asking me, over and over again,
to repeat the requirements of any given assignment.
What gives me the chills is that she is now a year away
from graduation,
with an education degree no less. 

This type of behavior should not be validated
in any way, shape or form. They should not be allowed
to graduate from high school.
They should not be admitted into a college or university.

I'm not sure how to fix this system as quickly
as it needs to be fixed.  So I add my voice to the chorus
of online distress over Karen Klein's sad experience.
Perhaps shame, as this gets broadcast all over the world
by countless bloggers just like me, will be what it will take
for every person in this country to stop being preoccupied
with an election that is costing way too much already,
and put that money into teaching people how 
to be humane, and how
to live in the world.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I haven't seen the video and don't want to. It sounds appalling and I could not bear to watch it. The last I heard, the online donations have now reached $300,000 so she can take a nice cruise AND retire, which is nice. But it doesn't change the fact that these kids are hateful bullies -- who enabled this? What have we come to?

laura.forestdreams:) said...

i just saw this on CNN last night...and i'll tell you...i was SHOCKED!!

it HURT just to hear what those kids were saying. ohmygod!

it makes one wonder...what the hell has kids many are just bubbling with hate...they have no compassion.

why? how?

the last i heard...people have donated enough for this woman to retire...over 500 thousand!! but no matter how much $$ she will not take away the hate she felt...the rage that was directed at her...for NO reason at all!

just too sad....

Yogi said...


These are kids from single parent homes.

Although she needed the money it would be wiser to employ very large, very strong, young men between the ages of 25-50 who have perhaps served some jail time or at least military time as bus monitors these days instead of soft-hearted grandmothers.

You can bet your bottom dollar kids would NOT mess with such a character.