Boys Behaving Badly

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.

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  1. I had such a difficult time watching this video. The way these boys treat her makes me sick to my stomach. Like you, my first instinct if this were my child, would be to “bust out the belt.” And also like you, I wouldn’t actually do it, but I feel the punishment needs to be harsh. But more importantly, a lesson of how hurtful they were needs to be taught.

  2. These kids shouldn’t be allowed back on the school bus, this year and going forward. Make mom and dad have to get them to school, punishment for both kid and parent. The kids should also have to publicly apologize and this should go on some record someplace, maybe one that future colleges see if these kids get so far.

  3. I agree with all of the things Justin has listed as punishment. I couldn’t watch it though, but I read the quotes and I can imagine it. I’ve been there. Maybe not quite like that, but close.

    FWIW the kid taking the video was not one of the bullies and is known to the lady as a good kid who was trying to help.

    If there’s a bright side, the guy in Canada who is raising money on indiegogo to send her on a nice vacation has raised more that $280K, and that will surely grow.

    She’s also quite overwhelmed by the support she’s been receiving…
    “I’ve got these nice letters, emails, Facebook messages,” she said. “It’s like, wow, there’s a whole world out there that I didn’t know. It’s really awesome.”

    The worst and best of humanity on display.

  4. SSP: Perhaps there was more than one kid making a video – but in at least one of the videos, the camera-kid was an active part of the harassment.

    And no one should think his/her kid is immune to this behavior. I have been in too many hearings where parents/grandparents were shocked – SHOCKED – by a child’s behavior to ever think a child is above being horrible *some* of the time. Or when s/he is put up to it, at least.

  5. I also couldnt watch this – though I tried. Just don’t have the stomach for things like this.

    Another thing to be considered here is that as much as one may want to blame the parents there might not be a “set” of parents to blame.

    Am not mentioning that as an excuse for the boys’ behavior, but am pointing it out because it could simply be the case that their respective home situations could be utterly dysfunctional.

    Or you might have a situations(or s) where you’ve a single mom who’s really trying to make things work but cant be everywhere all the time.

    i think half the time in situations like these it is akin to getting justly angry at an erratic pilot only to find there’s no one in the cockpit or if there is a pilot he/she got there flight credentials through a correspondence course.

    i say as much because yes – if there are responsible parents in the picture (hopefully there are) then they should be held accountable for reigning in their kids, but if not then we are looking at a scenario in which kids are “growing up” with a void where mentor/parent figures should be. When that happens these kids say/do terrible things and we are duly outraged enough to punish but i think it’s just as important to prevent.

    easier said than done, of course, but a good starting point is filling them voids.

  6. Every post i see is saying that these “BOYS” were horrible, dId i not hear the audio correctly, but it seemed to me like it was a girl who instigated most of the harassment. So it wasn’t just the boys it was both boys and girls; which by the way is worse.

  7. Quite a few of these children exist, two young women leaving a new store on Park Street told me I was gay after I ignored their initial “Hey, what’s up”, “He’s hott.” It seems as though the post awkwardness/rejection harassment escalates when there’s more than one person present. In the past month I’ve been told to “F” off”, “a-hole”, “you’re gay” is the most prevalent reaction. And then I see these same young women later on and I wonder what provoked their violent reactions, there’s no male stripper logo, or I’d like to cruise for daughters sign on my forehead. By default the larger group probably “protects” itself by later forming a group harassment coalition, it’s like Sodom and Gomorrah. I’m worried that these people would actually treat an actual gay man worse had he taken offense to their unprovoked bigotry. A common observed remedy has ironically been one of these women accompanied by a person of my race and gender displaying public signs of affection. Another popular remedy is to tell other people within the social group that the person whom has INFORMALLY rejected them “is crazy.” What kind of person would condone that psychotic behavior, and then align their own personal emotions on second hand lies and bigotry. I wonder how many heterosexual “gay” guys there are living in New Jersey, and I assume that these guys are also sexual deviants.

  8. I can’t stand the behavior in the video – it makes me sick to see the utter lack of respect and consideration for an adult by these kids. Though, I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that these are kids from bad homes or homes with a lack of parental involvement. I have seen many “good kids” from “good families” act this way. Sometimes the Lord of the Flies mentality takes over regardless of how a child was raised. Recently my 4th grader – who gets plenty of full time parenting, guidance and discipline from me – was on the wrong side of a bullying incident at his school. I have zero tolerance for that sort of thing, and my reaction and punishment were quite similar to the suggestions above: I contacted the other boy’s family and apologized directly, I made him write a long, formal apology to the other boy and took away every form of electronic entertainment for weeks. It still made me feel like I had failed in a way, but at the end of the day I decided to take a rather minor event and try to turn it into a learning experience.

  9. HCkid: I think you misheard. The names of the kids involved have been exposed by those who know them, and they are all boys (so far). That said, girls can be just as horrid.

  10. I saw this on youtube on Wednesday and it had 11,000 hits on youtube. I just checked again and it was 3,700,000.

    It’s to disturbing to comment on.

    Kristin, there are other videos on line, shorter ones maybe 1 minute taken from other angles. Did you see the kid picking his nose and wiping it on the seat at 7:20 minute mark? argh…. I’m commenting….

  11. One kid said “you’re so ugly your kids should kill themselves”…sad thing is one of her son’s killed himself 10 years ago….

  12. Herb: Unfortunately for my attempts to rise out of my misanthropic ways, I did see all the videos. The nose-picking and wiping was the least disgusting thing on the video.

    I’m happy that the bus monitor has managed to find a silver lining – and hopefully a comfortable retirement – in this. Similar to the video of the ridiculous young women who stole from a 9-year-old Girl Scout, these kids seem oblivious to the basic ideals of “Treat Others as You Would Have Them Treat You.” Or maybe they are just masochists.

  13. I got through :42 seconds before I opened a google maps page to see how far Greece, NY was by car.

    For Punishment I think the kids faces should be put on a billboard in town. They dont have to identify them by name, but just so the average business owner can see their face and look down on them when they see them, eventually turning them away from a job opportunity when they are old enough

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