I’ve held my peace on this one for a couple of months now, but the latest in the saga of the Bullied Bus Monitor has brought me to the brink.
Here’s the background: Karen Klein, a bus monitor in Greece, New York was badly treated by the students on her bus back in June. A video of what happened went viral and has been viewed well over a million times. This was a terrible occurrence—and sadly it is probably not rare.
But what has happened since defies my sense of balance and reason. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for Ms. Klein—who has retired since her experience in June. This week she received a check for over $700,000. She says she will use the money to carpet her home and will donate some of it to special needs children, especially those with autism and Down’s Syndrome.
Bullying is an awful, sometimes savage, experience that can affect a person’s whole life, especially when the victimized person is a child. We know that a very high percentage of youth who are bullied are mistreated because they are LGBT or are perceived to be. We know that the suicide attempt rate for LGB youth (we don’t have statistics for transgender youth at this time) is 3 to 4 times higher than for their straight peers. We know that bullying accounts for a significant percentage of that.
So now, explain to me the grave, profound harm that came to Ms. Klein as a result of her experience. Explain to me how a $700,000+ prize for her suffering in any way makes sense given she was supposedly the adult in charge of these children who treated her so badly. Explain to me why instead of awards, she wasn’t talked to by her supervisors as to how they could better train her to deal with the children in her charge. Explain to me why someone who failed so miserably at what she was supposed to be doing—providing a safe atmosphere for children on a school bus—gets to walk away with prize money. But far more important, explain to me why money wasn’t raised to directly address the needy ones in this situation—the students who obviously need all the help from all the social workers, guidance counselors, and anti-bullying trainers that upper-state New York can provide.
Those kids on the bus are the ones--and their probable other victims, the kids who go to school with them--are the ones who need the help. And beyond that one bus, let it be known that anti-bullying programs all over the country are struggling in this economy to raise money for their vital work.
Anti-bullying programs save the lives of LGBT youth and by also helping bullies and potential bullies who desperately need intervention these programs help society as a whole.
What Massachusetts LGBT Youth programs could do with just one tenth of the $700,000 which Ms. Klein plans to direct to interior decorating. That is a calculus that makes me crazy.