The viral video showing 68 year old Karen Klein being confronted and verbally abused by four seventh grade boys is yet one more example of the rampant bullying in our society. The resulting outrage and support for this bus monitor highlights how frustrated so many are that such behavior is allowed to continue.
Recently in the news a Florida woman was arrested for choking her daughter’s bully while in 2010 James Jones climbed onto a school bus and angrily confronted his eleven year old daughter’s tormentors. Did these parents do the right thing? By confronting their children’s abusers, by being aggressive and telling the other kids off, what was accomplished? While these are extreme examples and both parents were subsequently arrested, it raises the question; “where is the line in the sand?” At what point does stepping up become stepping over that line?
Ms. Ayer, in her Yahoo Contributor Network article dated June 22, 2012: Bullies Apologize to Karen Klein, but She Wasn’t Doing Her Job, claims that Mrs. Klein should have “been more assertive and told those bullies off. And frankly, she should have been performing her job.”
In the face of four boys, each feeding off the other and in a pack mentality, staying calm and keeping the situation from ramping up was her only choice. The unruly kids, egging each other on, laughing and supporting each other in their verbal attack on the lone woman created a volatile situation fraught with the unknown.
Karen Klein’s job, as bus monitor, was to help ensure the safety of all the students on board. Had she stood up and confronted her four aggressors, she risked putting the rest of the bus in jeopardy. What was a horrible personal assault could very easily have become a riot had other students chosen to take sides.
Mrs. Klein had a choice to make in a hostile environment. Yes she could have jumped up and got in the other boy’s faces but would that have been enough? They may have backed down or the confrontation could have gone to the next level. By choosing to stay in her seat and not fight back, the bus monitor did do her job. She kept a dangerous situation from escalating and potentially endangering the other students riding on that bus. She kept the focus of the attack squarely on her rather than creating a situation where the other children could become involved.
The duty of a bus monitor, first and foremost, is to keep the students under her care safe, to maintain discipline and safety. It is understood by reasonable people that these requirements are to be carried out within the framework of some normalcy. She needs to make sure that the children on her bus are following the rules and are behaving in a safe manner. When a dangerous situation develops, the rules change as to how those issues of discipline and safety are fulfilled. The boys defied the rules on a level above the norm, creating an atmosphere of volatility that Karen Klein had to react and respond to, keeping the other riders, the bus driver, herself and the four miscreants all calm and safe.
The choices she made were absolutely within the purview of her job description.
It could easily be argued, Ms. Ayer, that Mrs. Klein did, indeed, do her job and she did it very well indeed.