A video of Karen Klein, a school bus attendant who was called a "fat ass" and a "troll" by a group of middle school boys on the bus, went viral recently. Klein — a 68-year-old grandmother and former bus driver — was on the Today show this morning, and told Matt Lauer that she hopes the kids, who have not only verbally assaulted her before, but also knocked out her hearing aid, will be punished. Matt Lauer was visibly upset, and called the kids "narrow-minded monsters" whose parents should be ashamed of them.
If you haven't seen the video filmed on the bus, be advised that it is absolutely disgusting and heart-breaking. The boys utter stuff like:
"Dumb-ass, fat-ass." "Maybe she is an elephant." "She's gonna pick out which kid she's gonna rape next." "Karen wants herpes." "Fucking hearing aid." "I'll egg your house." "What's your address so I can piss all over your door." "I'll fucking take a crap in your mouth." "You touched her arm flap. It's all stinky and smelly." "She probably eats deodorant because she can't afford real food." "What size bra are you? Triple sag?"
And: "I want to know how poor you are. What a fucking poor-ass. You're so poor. You're fucking troll, Karen." At the very end of the clip, one kid says, "You probably got [that purse] at Family Dollar, but you don't have a family, because they all killed themselves, because they didn't want to be near you." Did he know that Klein's son took his own life 10 years ago? Either way: Sick. Shameful.
But here's a question: What should an adult do in a situation like this? Yell? Scream? Issue threats? Klein didn't scold, reprimand or exert any authority over the kids. Was it the right thing to do, or did it exacerbate the problem? It certainly seems like the boys got into a very aggressive mood, trying to provoke and hurt her, and Klein's passive defense ended up playing right into the predator/prey dynamic. She is absolutely not to blame for the incident, but while watching, I was trying to imagine what, if anything, could have been done to defuse the nasty environment in which kids were clearly testing — and pushing — limits. I don't know. Some think kids do and say nasty things every day, this is nothing new, and we should, instead of attacking these kids, offer them our compassion.
If there's an upside to this, it's that concerned adults have created a vacation fund for Karen Klein, and have already raised over $160K.