This is the story of Karen Klein - a woman made sadly famous because she was bullied and harassed on her job. Due to the advantages (and I use that term loosely) of convenient technology, we have this incident on video. That in itself a violation of her dignity. Karen Klein, the school bus monitor from Greece, New York, who was verbally bullied and physically threatened by the same middle school students she was charged to monitor and protect. This account is one of the most disturbing things I've ever witnessed.
Why did she sit there and endure this torment? She had no choice. Stuck on a bus. She's the adult. And although the perpetrators received a year's suspension from school, those are consequences I personally believe were doled out due to the public nature of this event and are far from how these situations are normally handled. Most of the time there is little or no consequence. Because adults are much less apt to report bullying than kids - unless the child is the victim - and then they are legally required to do so. But when it happens to them? No. It's embarrassing. They're adults. They're supposed to handle it quietly or ignore it. The sadder truth is that they are expected to endure it. "They're just kids," after all. And within the always-do-what's-best-for-children internal mantra ingrained into public school teachers heads from day one - no one wants to say it.
I sometimes wonder when I'm going to turn on the news and hear of a suicide note left by an educator, who chose to end the shame instead of quietly resign. How many times in the course of a school year do you think this happened to Ms. Klein? How many times in the course of a school year do you think this happens to other adults in a school building? How many times in the course of a school year do you think this happens to teachers?
Do you think it is a lesser hurt because it falls from the mouths of children?
How many times in the course of a lifetime and a career do you think Karen Klein and every other adult in charge of adolescents who freely insult, disrespect and bully them will think about the abuse they received at the hands of children?
We know from research that verbal wounds from childhood shape the psychological and physical destinies of people for most of their lives. We know that words are powerful. Somehow we stopped counting the stones when we became adults.