Bus monitor bullies: how would you organize a punishment?

As a parent, I recoiled in horror watching the video of Karen Huff Klein, the bus monitor who was brought to tears by a group of 12 to 15-year-olds, bullying with taunts about her weight on their recent ride to school in Greece, New York.

I simply couldn’t bear to watch more than 20 seconds.

At first I was heartened by the spontaneous generosity of internet strangers who started a vacation fund for Karen. Over the course of the day, that fund quickly ballooned from a few thousand dollars into nest egg worth nearly $200,000!

Yay – viva humanity, I thought.

But then I began to wonder if that really is the right message to come out of this mess. While I am thrilled for Karen that good things came out of a hurtful experience, I can’t help but feel as though the money piece of the story obfuscates and distracts, rather than solves.

Could all of that money lead the bullies to think they didn’t need to apologize? That they effectively helped her “win” a lottery of sorts? As a society, should we be more concerned about how to stop the behavior in the first place, rather than papering over the collateral damage with money?

Organized Parenting Requires Discipline & Follow Through

As I looked at my two, sweet and still very innocent boys across the dinner table last night, I couldn’t help but wonder: what steps do I need to take now and over the next few years to ensure my boys don’t E.V.E.R. behave like bullies. To anyone.

I also thought about what I would do if I were the parent of one of the kids taunting poor Karen. What lesson would I want to teach them?

The answer was immediate. Empathy.

So I thought of discipline that might reinforce empathy. Most had to do with getting out from behind a “comfort zone” and getting to know, really know, people from different walks of life and communities. Because that is what breaks down the “other-ness” that makes bullying possible. When you really get to know another human being, no matter how different from you, it is impossible to deny she deserves respect, kindness, and love.

So here’s my proposed disciplinary action for the boys

  • I would make them apologize. In person.
  • I would make them cut her grass, weed her garden, shovel her sidewalk of snow from now until they graduated high school.
  • I would make them do some hands-on volunteering once a week so that they really got to experience life outside their little bubble.
  • I would ban TV, video games, and social media for at least 6 months so that they could only live in the real world, interacting with real people.

If you were the parent of one of those bullies, how would you have organized your response?