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I’m not a bleeding heart, but I’m not out for blood.

The Karen Klein bus monitor saga fits into a disturbing pattern of vilification without redemption. It goes like this: Someone does something wrong. The story spreads like wildfire through social media. People are outraged. There’s endless news coverage. Pretty soon, Public Enemy Number One is getting threats. No punishment is good enough. No apology is good enough.

We live in a rush-to-judgment society that has no patience for facts and no need for forgiveness. We need to feel control, so we call for laws. We need an explanation, so we blame bullying and parents and society. We need to feel superior, so we say our children would never participate in something so ugly. Of course, we would never, ever make a mistake ourselves.

This isn’t a story about demon kids from Greece. This is a story about how easy it is for children to get sucked into mob behavior and how hard it is for anyone to intervene. I don’t need to know their punishment. I don’t need to see them hauled into court. I don’t need to hear their apology. These kids will never, ever forget what happened this week and will undoubtedly pay a heavy price.

The only person who seems ready to forgive is Karen Klein, who doesn’t want the kids prosecuted and doesn’t believe they are bad people. Let’s learn from her example.

– State Senator Jim Alesi gave a farewell speech he compared to a wake.

– What’s a couple hundred million dollars? The Bills and Erie County are negotiating a new stadium lease and taxpayers will likely pay a good chunk of renovations.

Apple is really trying to screw up Kodak’s patent sale.

16 Responses to Not Out For Blood

  1. June 22, 2012 at 11:17 am Edward Richards responds:

    This disturbs me beyond belief. I’m furious!

    These kids are not probably bad kids per se. However, they made very, very bad/ruthless decisions against a kind, defenseless elderly woman. What did she ever do to deserve this? It’s not as much as groupthink as it is mob mentality, a gang assault of sorts. More. More. More.

    The psychology of it all is it gives the bully a “rush”, a feeling of euphoria. Sort of like an addiction. The feeling it has for them is intoxicating. Can you imagine how good that must feel for a kid who has yet to reach puberty?!

    Theses kids (thoughtless punks if you ask me) are poor leaders who are probably the same kids who talk during class and who don’t play sports. I am assuming poor students as well.

    I am very sorry Karen was publically humiliated like that. What a gracious person she is. Things will get (even) better. Stay tuned….

    • “Theses kids (thoughtless punks if you ask me) are poor leaders who are probably the same kids who talk during class and who don’t play sports. I am assuming poor students as well.”

      How does that video point to any of that?

  2. Spoken like someone who has never been bullied. I don’t need to know these kids personally — I was on the receiving side of this sort of behavior. This isn’t about a mob mentality — it’s about the systematic denial that bullying is a significant problem and the resulting cover-up of such behavior. Without severe punishment these same kids will (continue to) bully classmates the same way. Does it affect student performance? Damn straight it does — and it makes the bullied want to avoid school alrogether. You’re right, these students will never forget this day but only because they were so ignorant and stupid that they recorded this particular act of bullying and no one else shared the opinion that it was cool or funny.

  3. June 22, 2012 at 11:34 am Edward Richards responds:

    I was my assumption. Besides, people who play sports don’t ride the bus. They are getting ready for practice. But it being the last day of school, I’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt.

    The only sport they are playing, bullying, is a (zero sum) game where there are no winners. If there are no winners, then why play?

  4. June 22, 2012 at 11:51 am Janet Gaupp responds:

    Well I don’t feel like I’m out for blood, but an apology for their actions is a start. And I would like to know the kids will suffer some consequences for their actions, not prosecuted but some kind of form of punishment besides the notoriety they have gotten. Look this has been happening in schools and on buses for a very long time the only difference is cell phones didn’t catch kids before now. Hopefully we can ALL learn from this.

  5. June 22, 2012 at 11:54 am Sal Hepatica responds:

    It is not just these kids the whole corrupt culture of the town of greece needs change. Assessor scandals, Police corruption an bankrupt supervisor and school board that has no independence. Sports team that bully kids and act out of control Yet Greece leaders play footsie with fundamentalists who have theocratic views as if that makes us a moral god fearing town, Greece is the Stepford town and we are paying the price for it

  6. In general, I have no issue with the idea of group think or mob mentality being to blame… except for one aching detail.

    Someone starts the mob, or the group think.

    I would argue Rachel that one of those kids is VERY responsible for what happened. If we want to beg the others off as being sheep, so be it.

    But someone thought it was cool, and a good idea.

    I know you don’t think it should go unpunished, and that’s not what I’m indicating here. I just feel as though allowing for this kind of behavior to be partially explained away by mob mentality/group think cheapens the entire notion of personal responsibility.

    While they are 7th graders and likely not capable of long term planning and understanding of consequences (especially since there often aren’t any), they still have an obligation to be human. They owe it to their friends, neighbors, family, and society in general.

    As do their parents. I find it astounding that so far only one parent has reached out to her (that we’re aware of.)

    Then again, all those 1500 that donated are just using mob mentality too, right? They aren’t REALLY good people? 🙂

  7. I was bullied, and as a trans woman have been bullied as an adult and I do not think these kids should have to face any punishment beyond what the school and their parents feel is necessary.

    We are such a paradoxical society with a simultaneous need to make matters both more and less complex than they actually are. We want simple solutions yet acknowledge the problems are complicated. What we need is more self reflection, from everyone.

    How are kids supposed to behave when their parents so casually insult those that do not agree with them, even on mundane issues such as entertainment preferences? I see a lot of anger and vilification over this and other issues. What message does that send to these, and other, young people? You want them to reject “might makes right” mentality, and yet want to utilize might to make them right. We make punishment not about reinforcing positive values, but about assuaging our own anger and then are surprised when the young make their behavior about their gut feelings.

  8. June 22, 2012 at 12:28 pm theodore kumlander responds:

    there is so much money in NFL football i can never understand why the tax payers should have to pay anything, and I like watching football.

  9. June 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm lynn e responds:

    I watched the whole video last night. This wasn’t Mob mentality nor was it impromptu. These kids sought to bully her in order to get her to strike out and get her fired. It was coordinated ahead of time along with videotaping the incident. You can see her almost striking back several times and pulling herself back. One of the students touches her hair and body several times. How threatening for anyone to go through. I agree with your assessment that people do knee jerk punishments and demands that lead to bad laws, and I’m not advocating for arrests or excessive punishment but what these kids did was reprehensibe. What these kids did was put her in a situation in which they held the power and tormented her so she could lose her job.

    • I worked as a substitute teacher and had a boy in one class who always tried to create problems. I was told not to send him to the office as his parents would have to come from work. He subsequently got another sub fired when she intervened (merely restrained him) when he was tormenting a guinea pig. Wonder who he’s tormenting today.

  10. June 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm Rochester mom responds:

    We raised our 15- and 21-year-old sons without television. I’m pretty sure their behavior and language—even when out of our hearing and sight—are less abusive than most kids their ages.

  11. June 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm Kevin Yost responds:

    In the good old days, kids got spanked with a paddle or a switch or a leather belt for bad behavior and disrespect. Maybe this should be legalized and brought back once again.

  12. So here’s my question? Where was to bus driver when all this was going on?

  13. June 25, 2012 at 3:19 pm Bill Seitzler responds:

    I’ve got lots of questions.

    We shouldn’t vilify the actions of these awful kids because we have no way to make sure they are redeemed?

    People interested in seeing/giving their opinion on this story are bad because they don’t have all the background of what happened on the bus?

    People should be outraged but let others worry about some kind of punishment?

    And, you are bad for writing an opinion piece that extends the life of the story adding fuel to a fire that shouldn’t be burning?

    I answer NO to all of these!

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