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School bus bullying: Why middle school kids can be so mean

TODAY Health June 21, 2012 at 2:15 PM ET Update, June 22: Three of the four boys who were taped tormenting a school bus monitor have apologized for their behavior in statements released through police, NBC News reports. Original story: By Lisa Flam They called her fat and ugly, said she was a troll, and their cruel, profanity-laced taunts made her cry. How could middle schoolers in upstate New York be so mean to their 68-year-old bus monitor? The videotaped bullying that boys and girls inflicted on bus attendant Karen Huff Klein has many wondering how or why these kids could be such "narrow-minded monsters," as TODAY's Matt Lauer put it. When kids reach middle school, bullying becomes more common and more sophisticated, experts say. “Middle school-age kids are sort of an age group that is notorious for an uptick in the intensity of bullying,” said Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist in New York and TODAY contributor. During the middle school years, kids are facing intense peer pressure, the pack mentality is strong and kids feel a growing sense of independence - all while their moral compasses are still developing, she said. “It’s a time when they’re figuring out who they are by sometimes crossing the line and breaking the rules,” Saltz says. “Their insecurity drives a lot of cliquishness and defining themselves as better by making someone else feel worse.” Related story: School bus monitor doesn't want kids to be charged with crime Middle school is often the beginning of the “mean age,” and kids don’t always know when to stop themselves. “Their ability to assess going too far is not fully developed, so you do see a lot of potential bad bullying,” Saltz said. Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist and Today contributor, said bad behavior can take place because young adolescents don’t always realize the consequences of their actions. “Kids can be aggressive and mean at any age or any stage but when kids are younger, they haven’t fully developed perhaps their ability to understand the impact they have on others,” she said. “It’s more of a self-centered existence. It’s a hallmark of adolescence, an over-focus on the self.” Peer life is essential to kids’ development, Ludwig said. “If kids feel they’re not being successful among their peers, there’s a sense of sadness and isolation, so they could act out or be

Kids can also be aggressive and bully others to establish their place of power in their group.” Saltz said.” she said. it’s to offset depression or anxiety and in other cases it’s kids who have been bullied. “It’s pretty unusual to see a kid do something like this to an adult. showing power and control makes them feel better. “That didn’t stir a moment of ‘Oh we’ve gone too far’ or feeling badly. “I’ve seen a lot of bad bullying. “Our entertainment is very focused on reality shows where people scream at each other.” For all the bullying that goes on across the country. “Sometimes when acting out in anger. “You’re sending the message. This was kids bullying an authority figure.” Saltz said. and noted that kids these days don’t always have the best adult role models when it comes to civility. but seemed to stir them to be even more aggressive.” she said. ‘Don’t mess with me. “Our civil discourse is not civil. I thought the level of sadistic behavior was pretty remarkable. For some kids. so it’s ‘go after the person that’s least likely to retaliate . We’re interrupting the president.” she noted. that you have respect for other humans and that this is completely unacceptable behavior. Ludwig says.victimized.” Saltz added.go after the weakest link. “Talk about feelings and empathy and how important it is to you as a family that you have respect for adults.” she said.” Parents should use this case as an example for their own children of how not to behave. Saltz said she was surprised by what she saw in this case. “This wasn’t a case of kids bullying kids. Saltz said. Ludwig says.’” Ludwig said. “That is very concerning.” And she said the kids’ lack of empathy was troubling. “The idea of treating authority figures with respect is not something we’re particularly modeling for kids. especially when Klein began to cry. “You’re making a name for yourself.’” Saltz questioned whether the parents of the kids on the bus had taught their kids about empathy. .

Seventh grade is a rough age. Technically. because studies have shown that removing the boys from the pro-social environment of school will not teach them to change how they treat people. who has worked in the school system for more than 20 years. both which have been suggested in thousands of online comments. The boys poke her and mock her and laugh at her without any sign of empathy for her increasing distress. Just watching the video made me feel sick. Kids who act as bullies are at increased risk for future problems with depression and anxiety. But when I see it channeled as . The bad news is that people are so inflamed they are launching death threats at the kids and their parents. So. and if a bus monitor does not feel that the school will back her up in protecting herself. Angry strangers are barraging the school and the town and the families with hatefilled emails and phone calls and online comments. and the kids who are acting as the bullies will receive appropriate discipline. and a campaign to raise funds for Klein took off like wildfire.Bullying on the Bus: Solutions and Analysis By Carrie Goldman (Author of BULLIED: What Every Parent. The seventh-grade boys called her "fat" and taunted her about the tragic fact that one of her kids had committed suicide. A viral YouTube video shows a group of middle school boys from New York relentlessly and cruelly taunting 68-year-old bus monitor Karen Klein. who said she wants to return to her job. This is not the answer. what do we do? Well. and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear) Huffington Post . first we look at the role of the bus monitor.Posted: 06/24/2012 3:27 pm For several days I have been reading and watching coverage about the horrifying story of the bullied bus monitor. Not just suspension. This is no surprise. The good news is that people are offering massive amounts of support to Klein and are talking about the societal problem of bullying. Klein has stated publicly that she was trying to ignore the kids and that she didn't want to get anyone in trouble. among other things). not just expulsion. in lieu of death threats and harsh physical punishment. More than $500. so it helps our entire society to help them now. The school district needs to properly train bus monitors on how to respond to bullying. I agree. but also that they will receive enhanced social and emotional services. it will lead to a serious investigation by the school. When the video was uploaded to YouTube. How about having the boys and their families meet with a therapist? How about having the boys do some community service with senior citizens? How about helping the boys to restore justice to Klein? When I see the outrage people feel at this incident. because they fear getting the bullies in trouble and then having the bullies retaliate. Teacher.000 has been donated to Klein. it quickly generated outrage and disgust. but on a different bus route and with an apology from the students. she is there to help keep kids safe (from bullying. how can she protect the kids on the bus? Bus monitors need to know that if they make a report about bullying. and the boys who were taunting Klein need some intervention. Many victims are terrified to report bullying.

Adults bully each other. Kids bully each other. Bullying is not just a problem that affects school kids. We have a culture that supports aggression and taunting. And what of the other kids on the bus. and to psychiatric patients. "That is uncool. and we are seeing the effects of these messages everywhere we look. watch this video with them. More than half of bullying incidents stop in less than 10 seconds if a single person intervenes.aggression and hate. where they hold themselves and each other accountable. We see it happen to senior citizens in long-term care. We see it when four middle school boys taunt an overweight senior citizen. It is possible to do. . the boys should be held adults. be it in the many reality TV shows that fling insults in order to obtain ratings. One of the things this video shows is that bullying affects all different types of people. who surely knew what was going on (and even videotaped it). I cringe. regardless of age or social status. as should their parents and their school. or in the advertisements that imply that overweight people are unworthy. It needs to become a place where the kids view themselves and the adults on the bus with respect. Anyone who is different is at risk of being targeted. There is an enormous amount of bullying of those who are gender-nonconforming. but they can also bully a vulnerable adult. and it requires constant effort to teach kindness. Leave her alone. too? Isn't the person who is sending death threats to the boys responsible? Isn't the TV show that rips on overweight people responsible? Aren't the politicians that bully each other responsible? Why do we tolerate this cruel behavior --even condone it -. but abhor it in children? They learn from watching the world around them. If you have teenagers." Were they also afraid of retaliation? Were they afraid of becoming targets? The entire culture of that bus needs to change. Help them brainstorm about ways they could have spoken up. We see it in the workplace. Ask them what they would have been feeling if they were on the bus. and the solution requires us all. It starts young. What can we do to help those kids find the courage to say to the bullying boys. But aren't we all accountable. The problem affects us all. Yes.