Have you seen this video? It shows a group of middle-school kids, taunting and berating a 68 year-old school bus aide. They call her fat and that’s not even the worst of it. Eventually, she cries. Then they make fun of her for that too. It gets worse. One of these cherubs apparently thought it was funny enough to record the whole thing. The video is sad, disturbing and difficult to watch (And it has some offensive language):
My first reaction was, “This is an epic failure of parenting.” These kids are out of control and it’s their parents’ fault. But is that fair? Is it right to judge a parent based on their child’s behavior? Do I want you to think I’m a bad dad because my daughter is throwing a fit in the supermarket? No, I don’t. Then again, there is a big difference between my five year-old throwing a tantrum in the cereal aisle and a bunch of pre-teens belittling an adult to the point of tears and recording it for posterity.
Sometimes kids are just jerks, no matter how good or bad their parents are. But if they act like this on the school bus they must exhibit some signs of jerkiness at home, right? And you would think a good parent would nip that behavior in the bud, whether it’s a good talking to or some sort of punishment for a repeat offender.
I know bullying is a big issue in schools right now. Even though my child doesn’t start public school until the fall, we learned at each school we toured this past spring there is a concerted effort to recognize, punish and eliminate bullying. I think what makes this case more disturbing is that the victim is an elderly woman. Lack of respect and disregard for decorum reflect on a child’s upbringing.
I know I would be mortified if that were my daughter doing the bullying. My first reaction would be to go old-school, like my dad used to, and bust out my belt. Make no mistake: we are not hitters or spankers. Not at all. To be honest, once cooler heads prevailed I probably wouldn’t do that. But that would be my instinct. So what is the proper punishment here? I think the school and the parents need to identify these kids and each take serious action.
I asked the parents who follow my blog on Facebook what they would do. And after reading their ideas and thinking about it, here’s how I think my wife and I would respond, belt-lashing aside:
-Have them write an apology letter, hand-deliver it to the woman, and read it in person.
-Perform some sort of community service for some indefinite period of time, either for the greater good or for this woman in particular. Mow her lawn for free all summer. At the very least.
-Take away everything: no phone, no television, no music, no friends, no social events, no nothing. Until further notice. Food, water, clothing, shelter. That’s it. Until I see you act like a human being and not an animal.
If these kids had no second thoughts about doing this to a 68 year-old woman – a school official, no less – I shudder to think how they would treat their classmates. I tremble at the thought of my daughter encountering such miscreants and bear the brunt of their taunts.
I wasn’t a perfect child. I said and did things to other kids, on the school bus or otherwise, that in hindsight I’m not proud of. I don’t think that means my parents were bad parents. I was always disciplined when they found out. That brings up one final point: in the internet age, behavior – and especially bad behavior – can go viral quickly. Those consequences apparently never crossed the minds of these kids. That’s scary. When I was growing up, if someone didn’t tell my parents, no one ever knew. But someone usually told them. And there were always consequences.
If there is a silver lining to this story, it is the outpouring of support for the woman who was bullied. Click this link for that part of the story.
Justin is a dad, husband, dog owner and homeowner who also blogs at Daddy Knows Less.