When someone first drew my attention to news reports of a bus monitor being bullied by kids, I wondered why this was news. When I learned that the bus monitor was female, older, heavy and had worn hearing aids, I was especially surprised. Since when does this society not condone mistreating older people, women, fat people and or disabled people, let alone someone who falls into all four categories?
I mean, let’s be honest with ourselves. These kids didn’t come up with the idea they could target this woman so viciously without repercussion on their own. They got it from hearing authority figures talk about similar people in similar ways. They got it from living in a culture that is awash in subtle and not-so-subtle hints that women are second-class citizens at best, but become absolute garbage the minute they cross certain age or weight thresholds, and that people with disabilities are unfortunate occurrences that should probably be put out of their misery.
In fact, as far as I can tell, the kids posted the video themselves. They filmed their behavior, and proudly made it public. Does anyone know better about this?
It’s unfortunate that the kids, their families and school officials have had death threats as a response. Violence wouldn’t help here. What might help is subjecting all these people to an intense, month-long campaign of being taunted by people who are skilled at picking out one’s worst insecurities, saying extremely cruel things about them and laughing remorselessly. I’ll volunteer – that’s a skill I had to learn to deal with bullies when I was in seventh grade too.
Removal of public privileges is probably a more practical solution for the kids. Take them out of sports. Flunk them in a class they really need to get into the college of their choice. Put this on their permanent record. Charge them. Wreck their young lives a little! Who cares? By treating others as disposable, they have made themselves disposable in my book. Sometimes you do stupid things as a kid. Sometimes you pay for them the rest of your life. We all run that risk. These kids should not be protected from the consequences of being hideously vile assholes just because they’re young.
But what about the parents and other authority figures who helped make this possible? What would really make them regret their failure to teach these kids to respect someone like Karen Klein? Will the death threats do it? I doubt it. I’m a fan of public humiliation for bullies and their enablers. And I’m sick to death of schools getting away with doing nothing. We keep asking about the parents, and they certainly have some culpability, but schools get by with total failure when it comes to bullies, and never seem to face any consequences because, why? Is it that no one can sort out which individual to blame? Or is it that schools are all poor? Either way, this one’s easy: next time a school district lets bullies get by with it, cut all administrative salaries for that district in half. Let ’em see how they like that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad we’ve decided to pretend we give a shit what happens to this particular lady. It’s better than nothing. I just wonder what has to happen for all the other elderly and/or overweight and/or disabled women in America to get some fucking respect. I saw a lot of teachers get bullied by classes they couldn’t win the respect of, and they were always women, and they were never conventionally attractive. The male teachers would try to counsel them on how to win that respect, but it simply didn’t work for them like it did for the men. The kids had learned from home and their culture that they didn’t need to respect a woman, and nothing a woman told them was going to change that.
Just speaking for myself, I admire Karen Klein. I would’ve bullied those little shits right back until they couldn’t sleep at night.