COMMENTARY | When a cell phone video on YouTube showing middle school students in Greece, N.Y., bullying their bus monitor went viral, the Internet community went ballistic. Local police are asking the public to hold off judgment, fearful for the students' safety. The video showed students taunting their elderly bus monitor, addressing her with epithets such as dumb *** and fat ***, mocking her weight, threatening to stab her, and more.
Middle school-age children can be unthinkingly cruel. They can get caught up in the moment and follow the crowd, overriding their internal controls. It doesn't make them monsters, just kids in need of correction. But in this case, there are disturbing signs the assault on the bus monitor wasn't an out-of-character act of impulse.
What is most startling about the video is the degree of comfort these particular kids display as they mock an adult. There is no hesitation and no one urging the others to back off. There is no sense any of these kids is concerned about being held accountable for his conduct or his words.
From watching the video, one gets the feeling these kids are used to calling adults vile names, using foul language in public, and making threats. There seems to have been a serious breakdown in their upbringing and schooling.
Those who taunted and threatened are not the only ones whose behavior is concerning. On the entire bus, not one student stood up and said, "Enough!" Not one apparently alerted the bus driver.
Greece as a community needs to address the lack of respect its children exhibit toward adults rather than simply punish the wrongdoing to save face. The community needs to ask itself how this comfort developed with children badmouthing grown-ups. It needs to explore why no one had the courage or the conviction to speak up in the face of this abuse. Without this introspection, punishing the offenders is of little value.