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Revelations: What happened to the golden rule?

By BY JENNIFER PREYSS
June 22, 2012 at 1:22 a.m.
Updated June 23, 2012 at 1:23 a.m.

Jennifer Preyss

You probably read the headlines this week about the New York bus monitor, Karen Klein.

Her story made national news when multiple videos went public showing Karen, a 68-year-old grandmother and former bus driver, enduring harsh verbal bullying from middle-schoolers - who harassed her to the point of tears.

I watched the videos multiple times, read countless articles on the incident, and couldn't make any sense of it.

I was outraged, of course, at the children and their parents. But I was equally annoyed with the bus driver, and frankly, society as a whole.

"How in the world do these kids think this behavior is OK?" I thought. "And where is the bus driver? Why aren't they doing anything?"

From various articles and interviews I've seen, it seems Karen didn't know what her role was as a disciplinarian on the bus. And who can blame her? These days, if you look at someone wrong, or say anything even partially offensive, you can get fired, sued or arrested. No wonder she didn't defend herself.

But that doesn't mean no one else shouldn't defend her.

So, Karen, I'd like to pass along a message to those bullying children for you: "Y'all pretty much suck."

Everyone who watched that video, with a normal adult maturity level, probably wished they could have jumped in and told those kids where to go - me included. And trust me, had me, or any other outraged viewer been on the bus, those kids would all have received a harsh, finger-wagging scolding.

I would have also demanded that the driver pull over to the side of the road so I could contact each kid's parent and let them know their children would need to find alternative transportation.

I can only assume for the children to be so comfortable bullying others, they must be witnessing similar behavior from their parents. Or they're watching television and films beyond their maturity level; or they're keeping company with negative peer-influences and the parents don't care.

But whatever the reason for your out-of-control kids, parents, it's your fault.

I don't have any children yet, but I am an aunt, a daughter, a friend, a former nanny and a human being, who was taught at an early age to respect my elders and stand up for those who can't do it themselves.

I did so recently at a restaurant, when a foul-mouthed man - sitting next to five other tables of families with small children - thought it was appropriate to curse and speak loudly into his cell phone for an extended period of time, while everyone was trying to enjoy their dinner.

Even though everyone was visibly bothered, no one said anything. So, I eventually turned around, raised an eyebrow, and told him, "You need to keep it down, there are children around."

And I did so at another restaurant about a year ago, when a rude couple made a point to publicly embarrass and bully their bartender for failing to serve their beans at an appropriate temperature.

I won't tell you what I told them, but the restaurant manager later shook my hand, thanked me and offered me and my friend a round of drinks on the house.

I know by now, the parents of those bus children have seen the videos of their children bullying Karen - and I hope they are mortified. I hope they're using this incident as an opportunity to speak with their children about why their behavior is wrong, embarrassing and cruel. And I really hope each and every one of them walk to Karen's front door and apologize to her face.

But I hope they're also asking themselves why their children think it's acceptable to to tease, taunt and bully others for their own amusement - and capturing it on video for the world to see.

And I hope the rest of us are asking ourselves, "How can we make sure this never happens again?"

I think the answer is simple. We have to go back to that old-fashioned practice of honoring the golden rule.

Because somewhere, a child is watching and learning what behaviors they'll use later with us, and grandmother-aged bus monitors.

Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or jlpreyss@vicad.com or Twitter @jenniferpreyss.

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