TIME Ideas: The School-Bus Bullies: Are Adults to Blame Too?

By Erika Christakis

The nation’s hearts and wallets opened last week for Karen Klein, the bus monitor in upstate New York who was mercilessly taunted by a pack of feral-minded middle schoolers. But the gold rush of online donations (more than $600,000 and a free trip to Disneyland for 10 people) leaves a slag heap of questions. When we grow tired of the bus video heard ’round the world, we might start by asking, What is a bus monitor’s role exactly?

It’s not victim blaming to acknowledge that Klein was both horribly abused and also hired to prevent the kind of torment she endured. It’s therefore puzzling that neither she nor the bus driver — the adults on the bus — took any measures to prevent, stop or report the atrocious behavior. Did she ever receive any training in how to manage unruly or abusive kids? Why didn’t the bus driver chime in, or stop the bus immediately, and tell the kids to straighten up? The episode wouldn’t even have come to the attention of school administrators or parents if a student hadn’t filmed and posted it. This isn’t a chain of authority that inspires confidence.

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