It's all about civility. And respect. And a whole host of other things that for some reason our society has decided are either not important or too old fashioned to worry with anymore. A popular subject in the news this week is that of Ms. Karen Klein, of New York. She is the bus monitor who was verbally harassed and abused by the students on her bus, one of whom decided it would be fun to not only record the incident for posterity, but to post it to his YouTube account as well. I do not know what started the incident, and no one else seems to either. Like a pack of hyenas these four boys decided they were going to use her as an object of sport and let the abuse flow unfettered.
Fundraising site IndieGoGo.com started a fundraiser, hoping to raise a few thousand dollars, in order to send Ms. Klein on a nice vacation. Due to the overwhelming support of people appalled by the behavior they witnessed almost six hundred thousand dollars has been raised as of the time I write this (June 22). Far from a vacation, Ms. Klein can probably afford to retire now, if not to a life of luxury at least one of comfort.
As for the bullies, two of the boys and one of the families have apologized, but Ms. Klein politely doubts their sincerity, as do I. What makes this all so much worse is that not a single person tried to intervene. Not a single person tried to stop four boys from publicly tormenting someone old enough to be their grandmother, and a person who, by nature of her job if nothing else, they owed at least cursory respect. I find it distressing that no one else on the bus saw anything wrong with the verbal assault or if they did lacked the courage to try and stop it. To her credit, Ms. Klein has declined to press criminal charges, and just wants this all to go away. She firmly believes the boys should be punished, but not given a criminal record that would follow them the rest of their lives.
I have to wonder about the parents of the bullies and how they are raising their children. I wonder how they have not noticed this sort of thing before, or if they have why they didn't try and curb it. I wonder how they didn't teach their children respect for their elders. I wonder what other lessons they have failed to teach their children, and what price those children will pay in the future if their bullying is not an aberration.
And now I have to wonder as well about the people who have been harassing the boy who posted the video. He has received thousands of phone calls and e-mails, some threatening, others just harassment. This too is unacceptable. By all reports he is thirteen years old, and while he participated and publicized vile behavior by children, he does not deserve to be treated like this. The original incident was four boys who apparently gave no thought to what they were doing, and are more upset at being called out as bullies than for actually being bullies. The continuing harassment of these children by adults who should know better (and are committing potentially criminal acts even if they don't) is unsettling and despicable. It also needs to stop.
**UPDATE - 06/29/2012**
Punishment has been handed out in this case. The four boys in the video have been suspended from school and from the school's transportation system (not sure why they'd need to specify the second) for one full year. There are other components to the punishment including community service and anti-bullying education, full story here.