What We Can Learn from The Greece, NY Bus Monitor Matter by Douglas W. Green, Ed.D.

In this guest blog, Dr. Doug Green presents his perspective on the bullying of bus matron Karen Klein, and offers advice to parents and school officials.

By now you have probably heard about a school bus in Greece, NY where a 68-year old bus monitor was abused by four middle school students. This went on for 10 minutes and was filmed by a student who posted it to YouTube. The video soon went viral and a fund was started to send the monitor on a nice vacation. As of this writing the fund has unexpectedly grown to over $677,000.  The fund page (http://www.indiegogo.com/loveforkarenhklein) contains a link to the video, which is approaching 8 million hits. This is sad for Greece, but all schools should be able to learn from what happened. As a retired principal who used to ride a lot of buses, I feel I’m in a position to offer some advice to schools and parents.

Bus monitors need training and tools. Either this district failed to properly train their monitors, or this one wasn’t following the expectations of the program. Neighboring districts should cooperate rather than having everyone invent their own program. Bus monitors are among the lowest paid employees and are seldom naturals at dealing with a group of children. This monitor basically did nothing and failed to report the incident.

Bus monitors need good hearing and reasonable physical skill. This monitor said she was hard of hearing. If that is the case, she doesn’t belong in this position. Perhaps she could be moved to job where her hearing wouldn’t be a safety issue. I’ve seen situations where ineffective monitors make situations worse by either inaction or by yelling and even needlessly putting their hands on students. This might be necessary to break up a fight. 

Ignoring this sort of behavior clearly didn’t work. I suspect that the other three students would not have felt emboldened to join in had the monitor effectively addressed the initial taunt. If I were there, I would have said something like “young man, you can either apologize for what you just said or face the consequences when I report your behavior to the principal.” If that didn’t work I would pull out my cellphone and start recording. I’ve done this as a substitute middle school principal many times and it has always worked. Monitors should have a cellphone for communication and recording. As an experienced educator, I could have engaged in a more complex conversation to defuse the situation, but you can’t expect that from a bus monitor.

Use this video for your anti bullying program. Show it to the students and have them work in groups to explain why this behavior is not in the best interests of anyone, especially the bullies. Ask: what would you do if you were the monitor and heard the first student start taunting? What would you do if you were there? What will others think of you if you do this sort of thing? Perhaps the final lesson is, if you do something bad, it just might end up on YouTube.

Dr. Doug Green has been an educator since 1970. After teaching chemistry, physics, and computer science, he became an administrator for the next 30 years with experience at the secondary, central office, and elementary levels. He has also taught leadership courses for The State University of New York at Cortland and Binghamton University and authored over 300 articles in computer magazines and educational journals. In 2006 he gave up his job as an elementary principal to care for his wife who had Lou Gehrig’s disease. After her death in March of 2009 he started a blog (http://www.drdouggreen.com) so he could use his expertise to help busy educators and parents engage in bite-sized daily learning. He can also be found on Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/drdouggreen). 

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