I was outraged when I saw the latest YouTube account of bullying. The extent of the incident and cruelness of some children is beyond comprehension.
Karen, the gentle, matronly grandmother from a small town in New York, just wanted her tormentors to go away. These tormentors did not invade her home, nor were they holding a gun against her head — although they might as well have been. These were seventh graders on a school bus.
Karen, an aide on the bus, tried to ignore what was happening as four seventh grade boys in the back of the bus verbally and physically abused her. Ultimately, she was driven to tears. “They were trying to impress each other by acting this way, and I was the likely victim,” she said later. Graciously, she added, “They’re not bad kids, but when they get together (bad) things happen.”
This reminds me of the kids in Lord of the Flies, a novel often assigned in honors English classes. In this story, a group of children stranded on a tropical island develop their own culture in which the most ruthless kids dominate. With no adult moral compass, animal instincts rule until the group commits the ultimate act of bullying — killing the child whom they identify as the “pig.” As an educator, I quickly learned the importance of prompt, firm adult intervention when kids treat others badly. As Karen suggested, not every kid that abused her was mean. But one in particular had an attitude of arrogance and smirked when he acted horrifically. The others simply joined in and followed, probably trying to impress the leader but adding to Karen’s hurt.
Sadly, Karen’s case isn’t isolated. Just two days later, a shocking 10-minute video of children verbally and physically harassing an elderly school bus driver surfaced on YouTube. These children — who appear to be even younger than Karen’s tormenters — giggled as they encouraged a boy’s profanity-laced tirade against a bus driver named Bill. The driver did his best to ignore the boy, even as the child slapped the back of Bill’s head and kicked the back of his seat while Bill drove on.
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