Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kids Today

I've been hearing a lot about the bus monitor Karen Klein lately, and how she was ridiculed by some middle school-age students on the bus. Many commenters have said terrible things about the four boys, including how they should be punished (with fists and belts) and some have gone so far as to threaten death. Other commenters say that the parents must have been spoiling their children, and now they have a God complex.

I disagree.

I taught in a small district for a brief period of time...enough time to know that teaching in public school was most definitely not for me. Many of the children I taught came from homes where the parents either couldn't be present because they had to work several minimum-wage jobs, or the parents were not present because they chose not to be. These children were not spoiled, and yet I saw some of them behave cruelly to their classmates and the staff. Of course they were reported, but the principal was too busy to bother sometimes, so some disciplinary forms got thrown away before they were ever taken care of. I don't believe that the boys who bullied Karen Klein are spoiled. I think their parents might not be as present in their lives, so they are learning how to behave from other sources (ie other classmates, television, or the callous internet.) Of course, now that 4chan has released the names of the boys as well as the names of some of their family members, the parents are probably getting a literal wake-up call. (Like I said, callous internet.)

In regards to the posters who carry a "spare the rod and spoil the child" approach to child rearing, I will refer again to the school where I taught. My school allowed corporal punishment, and many families were fine with their child being paddled. On many occasions, I was called into the principal's office to watch the principal spank a child (so the child couldn't claim that too much force was used.) It was always the same students getting paddled. How do we know that these four bullies haven't been spanked before - how do we know that they weren't spanked after the police came by to question the boys about the incident? Eventually there comes a point when spanking doesn't modify behavior, it just leaves the child with a red behind.

Some people say she should have reported them anyway, but I understand her reasoning as to why she didn't. The end of the school year was just a day or two away. Most likely, that discipline referral would have been glanced at and then tossed in the trash can. Everyone is excited about starting vacation, and the over-aggressiveness would have been chalked up to something like cabin fever.

The school is going to have a press conference shortly (1:00pm EST) and will probably announce how they are going to punish the students in hopes of silencing the internet lynch mob. If I were the superintendent of that school, I would have the boys start off the year in detention, and part of that detention would be to write a letter of apology to Karen Klein for their behavior. Secondly, I would revoke their bus privileges. Not only would they not be allowed to ride during the year, this would probably bar them from being able to go on field trips. These boys will already have a negative stigma attached to them thanks to this incident, so I don't believe any further punishment would be necessary. Society will punish them enough.

NPR article about the incident

No comments:

Post a Comment