While a video showing an elderly bus monitor being verbally abused by middle school students has shocked many nationwide, others are not surprised at the degradation of our youth at the hands of the public school system — especially homeschoolers.
The Nightmare Bus Ride
On Monday of this week, Karen Klein, a widow and grandmother of eight, was riding with over 30 students from the Greece Athena Middle School in Rochester, New York for the last day of school. Four of those students, both male and female, began to harass, threaten and verbally abuse Klein.
“Put those glasses back on, I can’t stand looking at your face,” one student said. “You take up like the entire seat.” The students escalated to “She’s going to pick out which kid she’s going to rape next,” and “If I stabbed you in the stomach, my knife would go through you like butter.” They also threatened to throw eggs at her house and urinate on her property.
While Klein was being berated by insults laced with profanity, students poked and tried to touch the bus monitor, as she sat quietly for the most part. She said that she hoped that if she ignored the students, they would go away. However, that did not happen.
“Trust me, they didn’t go away,” she explained. “Usually I sit right in back, and I should have that day, but I sat one seat ahead so there was one boy in back of me and one boy in front of me. They just kept it up. They thought it was funny.”
“[Y]ou don’t have a family because they all killed themselves because they don’t want to be near you,” one student lashed out. Klein’s oldest son had committed suicide ten years ago.
When Klein began to cry as all of the insults piled up on her, students berated her by saying that she “misses her Twinkies.”
She says that the other students on the bus talked among themselves and did not intervene in the situation.
Klein, 65, has been working for the Greece Central School District for 23 years, and has served as a bus monitor for almost three years. She states that she has received insults from students before, but never to this level.
“It’s almost like I’m in a dream or nightmare, let’s put it that way,” she said. “It was just plain mean. Nobody should have to put up with that.”
In the few times that she replied to the children, she tried to speak sensibly to them. “I am a person, too. I shouldn’t be treated this way,” she said. At one point, she also admonished, “Live with integrity.”
The video was later uploaded to Facebook and YouTube, which went viral overnight. The public became enraged.
After watching the footage, one individual decided to launch an online campaign to support Klein and to raise funds to send her on a special vacation. “She doesn’t earn nearly enough to deal with some of the trash she is surrounded by,” stated the website.
While the goal was to raise $5,000 for Klein, at press time, the website had garnered over $260,000. Flowers also arrived at her door from complete strangers.
Homeschool Organizations Speak Out
Patti Owens, regional representative of the Christian homeschooling organization Loving Education at Home (LEAH), which has nearly 130 chapters throughout New York, told Christian News Network that when she first saw the news story about the incident, she was “absolutely horrified.”
“My first comment to myself was, ‘And that’s the reason why I homeschool.’ … Kids are not animals and they don’t need to act that way. They need to be taught.”
Owens has been homeschooling for eighteen years, and says that there is a significant distinction between homeschooling and public education in that children are taught how to behave properly in society, including how to speak to their elders. She said that a man once told her that he could immediately tell the difference.
“I can tell homeschoolers a mile away because you’re all so polite. They speak knowledgeably and intelligently,” he said. “And I don’t see that a lot.”
Owens has had her own negative experiences with the public school system. She explained that when her son was in first grade, the teacher tried to force students to read a book that Owens deemed to be violent. When she confronted the teacher, asking, “Why are you reading such a gross, disturbing thing with the kids?” she was told that her disapproval of the book amounted to censorship.
“It’s deplorable,” she said of the condition of public schools, including in Rochester, where less than 50% of high school students graduate. “Putting more money into the situation — that’s not going to fix it.”
“When I go down the street and see police cars parked at the schools — why?” she asked. “[Public schools are] not willing to say, this is right, this is wrong.”
“It really is like throwing them to the lion’s den every day,” Owens added.
“I would call it a den of jackals,” commented Michael Ferris to Christian News Network. Ferris is the president of the nationally-recognized Homeschool Legal Defense Association in Purcellville, Virginia. “I think that every parent in America should really take a look at this video and ask, ‘Is this how I want my kids to turn out?'” he said. Ferris added that if parents cannot answer the question in the affirmative, then they should seriously ask themselves why they are sending their children to public school in the first place.
“When [kids are] told they’re no different than an animal, when they’re told there’s no right or wrong, then who are we to say that it’s wrong to assault a 60-year-old lady?” he added. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘How’s that working out for us?'”
Ferris stated that he believes that the situation captured on video is a sampling of what regularly occurs in the public school system.
“I think that the socialization that we are seeing on this bus is, unfortunately, typical of the rampant bullying and taunting [in schools].”
In regard to what should happen next to the youth involved, Ferris, an attorney, stated, “I think these kids should be prosecuted. I think the school district should discipline them as well.”
He also added that he felt the students should be expelled from riding the school bus, and that their parents should not give them rides either.
“I think they should walk,” he said. “For the first time in their life apparently, they need to see there are consequences for their actions.”
“Certainly the behavior is a clear violation of our code of conduct and will not be tolerated. Disciplinary action to the fullest extent appropriate under New York State law will be taken,” Assistant Schools Superintendent Deborah Hoeft told local television station WHAM Thursday.
Police say they are still determining if the incident can fall under state criminal statutes.
“[This type of behavior has] gotten emboldened over the years,” Ferris said.
Owens agrees. “As time goes on, things are getting worse, and the Bible says that’s going to happen,” she said.