The video of King’s beating laid bare an entire culture of institutional failings within the Los Angeles Police Department; the video of the abused yet passive bus monitor lays bare an entire culture of institutional failings within our schools.
The first failure we see is Klein’s. The job description for a bus monitor in the Greece Central School District in New York where she was working specifies requirements to “maintain order on buses,” to “enforce district policy governing student behavior,” and to “report orally and in writing instances of continuing disruptive student behavior.”
Klein had a responsibility to step up and assert her authority – if not for her own benefit, then for the benefit of the other kids on that bus. Instead, she sat and tolerated the abuse, performing none of her duties and leading by the worst kind of example. The takeaway for a child, witnessing this scene as it unfolded, would be: “If a grown-up can’t do anything to stop them, then I sure can’t.”
That simply isn’t true. When they stay silent, bystanders condone bullying, but when they speak up, they can kill it. Speaking up is scary and difficult. But if children, and certainly their adult guardians, are part of a school culture that consistently encourages and empowers them to do just that, a dramatic change can take place.