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Suspended for a Year. Is it Fair?

Tingley-021 colorSo the four seventh grade boys who bullied bus monitor Karen Klein will be suspended from school for a year.  In addition they are required to perform 50 hours of community service with senior citizens.

The punishment leaves me shaking my head.

Look, what the boys did was awful.  They were mean, hurtful, and downright ugly.  But like it or not, the bus monitor and the school district have some responsibility for what happened.

As I noted in my blog last week, putting some of the blame for the ugly incident on Ms. Klein is not a popular position to take.  She’s a senior citizen, hard of hearing, and she’s had her own share of difficult things to deal with over her lifetime.  And I am by no means excusing the dreadful behavior of the boys in question.  But a year’s suspension?  Seriously?

One has to ask why the school district has monitors on the buses.  What are their responsibilities?  How are they trained?  What are they supposed to do when kids behave badly?  Surely the district doesn’t expect them to sit there and take the abuse.  And what if the target of the abuse wasn’t the monitor, but another student? Would Ms. Klein have taken some action then?

DisciplineI do not mean to be unkind, I really don’t, but if Ms. Klein was unable to do her job, why did the district continue to employ her?  My guess, as I said last week, is that the incident caught on video a few weeks ago wasn’t unusual, but the culmination of allowing kids to behave badly with impunity over time.

After the incident, a similar district in upstate New York revealed that on average 4 kids a day are suspended from riding buses for inappropriate behavior, usually reported by the drivers.  The district does not employ bus monitors.    As I noted earlier, the problem with the seventh graders on Ms. Klein’s bus isn’t unique to her school district.

Despite the kids’ untoward behavior on Ms. Klein’s bus, one has to wonder if the punishment would have been the same if Ms. Klein had simply done her job and reported the incident.  But with all the notoriety surrounding the incident, did district leadership overreact? 

Sure, take the kids off the bus for a year.  Assign them 50 hours of community service of any kind, not just with senior citizens.  Maybe prohibit them from participating in extra-curriculars.  But separate what was allowed to happen on the bus from their academics.

It’s reported that the kids will attend an alternative school next year with other miscreants.  In my experience sending kids to alternative schools rarely improves their attitudes or behaviors.  In the meantime, Ms. Klein has received over half a million dollars in donations from sympathetic people who viewed the video.  I’m sympathetic too – but I have to say that everyone has to share in the responsibility for what happened – kids, parents, the monitor, and the administration. 

 

 

 

 

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.