July 2nd, 2012
03:44 PM ET

My View: Bus bullies suspended, justice served - now teachers' work begins

Courtesy Robyn BarberryBy Robyn Barberry, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Robyn Barberry teaches English at an alternative high school and a community college in Maryland. With her husband, she manages Legends of the Fog, a haunted attraction with more than 200 teen volunteers. She has an Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College and blogs about motherhood for The Catholic Review.

(CNN) - Rather than spending their eighth-grade year at Athena Middle School, the three students who verbally savaged bus monitor Karen Klein have been suspended to the Greece, New York, school district’s reengagement center and will complete mandatory community service. Though their punishment exceeded Klein’s desire for the boys to lose their bus and extracurricular activity privileges, most people are satisfied with this story’s ending.

For people like me, this is where the story begins.

No matter how many poor choices teenagers make, only one - the decision to drop out - can prevent them from earning a high school diploma. Expelled students may lose the right to attend their home schools, but they are still legally entitled to an education. For this reason, public school systems have alternative programs, like the one in New York that the bus bullies will attend and the one in Maryland where I teach high school English.

Alternative education is widely misunderstood. It’s not prison. It’s not “let’s-talk-about-our-feelings” camp. It’s not a delinquent storage facility. It’s a second chance at learning, where the district curriculum is upheld, rules are enforced and rehabilitation can occur.

The alternative school atmosphere is not as tumultuous as one might think. It’s more like the day after a major storm has occurred. The tension has not fully evaporated. Shards of debris are all over the place. Loss is catastrophic. There is a genuine state of emergency, but the real danger has passed. It’s time to rebuild.

Every child who walks into my classroom bears an adult-sized burden, be it self-inflicted or superimposed. Unlike most teens, they aren’t worried about who they’ll hang out with after school, or if they’ll make the soccer team, who to date or what to wear to prom. Parole officers, anger management, court dates and electronic monitoring ankle bracelets are at the forefront of their minds. But, like everyone else their age, my kids want people to like them, despite their despicable pasts.

Some students are preceded by their stories, as will be the boys from Athena Middle School. The kids with high-profile cases have it the worst, because just like everyone else who’s heard their story in the news or neighborhood gossip, their teachers and classmates have preformed opinions of them.

I’d prefer not to know why students have been sent to my school unless they wish to discuss it with me. Their classmates will ask anyway. They always do. For a few, sharing begets bragging rights. Only second-degree assault?  I’ve got three counts of first. For most, it’s the type of bonding experience that heals. Oh, you messed up, too. It’s not just me.

“We’re bad kids,” they tell me. Society has sent them that message, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I explain that they’re not bad kids. They’re kids who made bad decisions in the past. They can choose to make good decisions from now on.

Educators: Kids aren't the only ones bullied

As an English teacher, I know appreciating literature takes empathy, something foreign for most of my students, as it was for the Athena boys who didn’t recognize Klein’s tears as a sign to stop taunting. Though literary classics are no easy sell, their universal themes apply even in an alternative school.

In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Atticus tells Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” My most difficult student, a girl who slept most of the time, heard us discussing that quote, picked up her head, smiled and said, “That makes so much sense.”

Even two 10th-grade boys who’d recently finished prison sentences couldn’t stop making connections between themselves and Elie Wiesel in “Night.” I had to correct them on multiple occasions, reminding them that they deserved to go to jail for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, and that they were never tortured, abused or denied basic human needs. Still, sympathy is the first step toward empathy. By the end of the book, our discussions had shifted to the fact that no one in the concentration camps deserved to be treated as they were and that we can never allow anything so heinous to happen again.

The fact that children’s brains are not fully developed offers an explanation and solution - though not an excuse - for the tragedy that happened on the bus that afternoon. Kids can be cruel, but fortunately, most become more respectful with age, time and experience. It’s not too late for these boys to learn kindness. Their time at the reengagement center should be used as a period of reflection and growth. They should take advantage of opportunities to discuss or write about the pain they caused Klein, what they would have changed if they could and what they will do from now on. The key to making the most of an alternative learning experience is to seek out positive role models and avoid negative teachers and peers. Find the people who seem genuinely happy and follow their lead. The boys will most likely begin their freshman year in a regular high school as changed men.

What happened to Karen Klein was tragic in every way, and the boys’ sentence was just. Though it was kind for people to open their pocketbooks and donate to a much-deserved retirement fund and vacation for Klein, money won’t erase the pain she will forever feel, nor will money fix the real problem. It can help prevent it - funding is desperately needed for programs like mine, which can and do change villains to victors. Empathy education is needed now more than ever. It starts with us. Every child, no matter what they’ve done, needs to know that at least one person has a vested interest in their future, someone who cares for them unconditionally. Perhaps someone like you.

The opinions expressed are solely those of Robyn Barberry.

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Filed under: Bullying • Voices
soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. Mad Sam

    If you are cruel toward an innocent, weaker being, you deserve to die. Being young is not an excuse for committing an injustice. Commit the deed and pay the price, cowards of the world.

    July 12, 2012 at 1:26 am |
  2. Mad Sam

    Sorry, Ms. Barberry, but I must say this: alternative schools are not necessary. Rather than be herded into holding pens, criminals like your students should be used as slaves (our national infrastructure needs some improvement) and should then be gassed en masse.

    July 11, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  3. Monica

    Thanks for the well-written blog. Bottom line: kids are going to try to get away with anything and everything they possibly can. This is probably NOT the first time these kids acted this way, either in school, after school, on the bus, wherever. When kids get away with it at one level, they will take it to the next level, and this is multiplied when they are in a group. This is human nature, and I feel the ONLY way for this to stop is for kids (and adults!) to be called out on it. That doesn't mean we file a lawsuit or hire a slew of counselors every time someone's feelings get hurt– but we deal with the situation publicly, so that everyone can see the consequences. Bullies operate best behind a mask of anonymity. I feel the punishment for these boys was appropriate.

    July 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Mad Sam

      It should not be considered human nature to abuse weaker beings. My opinion is that strict punishments should be enforced in cases like these so that the offenders do not repeat their crimes and, if they do so, they should be removed from the Earth as quickly and efficiently as possible.

      July 11, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  4. Mad Sam

    Sorry, Ms. Barberry, but I must say this: alternative schools are not necessary. Rather than be herded into holding pens, criminals like your students should be used as slaves (our national infrastructure needs some improvement) and should then be gassed en masse.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:10 am |
    • RR

      Mad Sam, I could think of a few uses for you too.

      July 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
      • Mad Sam

        @RR: Yes, I can think of some "uses" for myself. I should be "used" as a leader. If I were the temporary dictator or "Lord Protector" of America for even a few months, I could turn this land into a utopia.

        July 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  5. Lisa

    I am so sad to see how many comments on here are saying that these KIDS deserve worse punishment, and funds shouldn't be wasted on them, and to read all the hate against these kids. Yes, what they did was heinous. It was mean, awful, cruel, and deserved punishment. But they are CHILDREN! Even the Klein, the woman that they bullied and her family asked for the hate to stop for these kids. They made mistakes, one that they will learn from and regret for the rest of their lives. For goodness sakes, please, let's remember that everyone deserves a second chance, especially these young ones.

    July 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Mad Sam

      They are not "kids." Heck, they are not even "animals" (that would be an insult to my dog and the rest of the animal kingdom).

      They are "trash" that should be disposed of – IMMEDIATELY.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:30 am |
  6. Taxed

    I don't think this punishment fit at all – not enough emphasis on them truly getting the message about what they did. They acted like animals and this slap on the wrist is not enough to give them a harsh dose of reality. I personally would make them together pay an annual wage for the bus driver they heaped their awful words onto. She could take a year leave of absence courtesy of her bullies – and they should have to directly work for the money at a job befitting the kind of trash that came out of their mouths – let them spend a year cleaning up after people in a dump, or something. I guarantee you that they would be changed young men and rethink their actions in the future.

    July 10, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  7. Fresno

    Although it may gall some readers to hear that kids who have behaved criminally are getting a second chance for an education, the simple fact is that fixing a child is a lot cheaper than incarceration.

    In the category of contributing factors, I would have to say that a lot of this could be avoided if school and district administrations did a better job of supporting teachers efforts to maintain classroom discipline.

    Back in the day, students feared being sent to the office for bad behavior. Today, this is much less the case. You can thank the courts for that.

    When I was in school, paddling was still allowed, and I can tell you that because of that, students were much less inclined to test the limits. Very few were actually paddled, but the fact that it was possible kept a lot of students from bad behavior. I know that this will upset a lot of readers, but until you have been faced with the prospect of a "feeding frenzy" of a marginal class, you simply don't know what you are talking about.

    Although I always prefer the positive approach, there is a place for swift and unpleasant consequences. Students that learn that there is nothing that the school can do to them that counterbalances the feeling of power that they get from misbehavior will be more likely to end up in a continuation school.

    IMO we need to pursue a more global perspective when it comes to school discipline policy. In most of the world, the kind of classroom behavior that American teachers have to routinely put up with, would never be tolerated.

    July 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Mad Sam

      I'll tell you what's cheap: kill them all.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:11 am |
      • Greg S.

        Few if any humans could spew such blather without having a tongue in his cheek. I only hope that you're joking and trying to rouse emotional responses from your fellow readers. If you are sincere in what you write, you serve as an example of what the worst of the offenders might become. Full of hate!

        July 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
      • Mad Sam

        @Greg: I am not joking at all. The only way to cleanse this nation and save it from its current course of drastic decline is to liquidate as many bullies, criminals, and undesirables as quickly as possible.

        July 12, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  8. julia

    The more money spent on brats like these bus bullies- the less there is for kids who really deserve a top notch education. The US needs an educational system like the rest of the world. Either you try hard and test well and go to college- or you go to trade school. These 3 bullies should be put into a school where they learn a trade- not literature. They need to be put in their place- not told that they made a bad decision. They are bad people. That should limit what they can do in life. Tax payer funded college prep classes should be gone. They can learn to dig ditches. That's a suitable career for them.

    July 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Robyn Barberry

      Julia –

      What you are referring to is "tracking," where students' futures are determined based on a few arbitrary traits, like test scores, behavior, and at times, whether or not the teacher likes them. I was low-tracked in elementary school. I was told I wouldn't go to college. At fifteen, I wanted to drop out. Thankfully, several teachers took the time to help me find my talents and pursue them. I'm even more grateful that tracking has become a frowned-upon practice.

      Vocational and technical high schools used to be the places we sent students who wanted to learn trades because traditional subjects didn't appeal to them. That's changed dramatically in the past decade. Now, tech schools are harder to get into than some private schools, which, unfortunately, makes it difficult for the programs to reach the kids who need it the most.

      The boys on the bus behaved inappropriately socially, but how does that relate to academic performance or career possibilities? I know some honor students who snort cocaine and "D" students who volunteer over the weekend. I'm met some doctors and lawyers who were incredibly rude and janitors and cashiers who behaved as though they attended charm school.

      I'd also like to point out that there is no shame in trades. People who work with their hands are just as smart as those who work with their brains, only in a different way. Do you know how to build a solid and attractive piece of furniture or wire a lamp or fix your appliances when they go up? Without these people, where and how would we live, work, and play?

      July 5, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
      • V

        Ms. Barberry, I also hold a Master's degree, but it's not in Fine Arts – it's in Child Psychology, and I can tell you personally and professionally, you should keep your blogging topics to something within your expertise. These children absolutely knew right from wrong and encouraged one another to participate in this obscene behavior. Their punishment is not nearly enough to address the level of their deeds – the true long-term mental distress caused to their victim. I am more concerned about really addressing their conduct and view of themselves as members of society right here and now.

        July 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • shootmyownfood

      So bitter! You do realize, of course, that even jail time is intended to rehabilitate. It often doesn't, but it should. Because some teenage boys acted out in an unacceptable manner, it appears that you want them to fail and be a burden on society for the rest of their lives. I, for one, don't want to have to pay for their incarceration out of my tax dollars; I would much rather pay for them to be educated and hopefully "grow up" as we hope all children will do.

      July 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Mad Sam

      Julia, you are wrong. These criminals need to be killed or enslaved – NOT sent into trade schools – so that enough money is used for productive, law-abiding students who actually have some sense of compassion.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:16 am |
    • Gerry

      I use to drive a school bus full of high schoolers that were Army Children.Talk about a tough crowd. Those kids had been every where in the world and knew every onary thing in the world. Its a good thing this lady wasn't their bus monitor or she would have been in tears all the time. I learned a couple of things from driving that bus full of officers kids. First of all rank matters, second, Moms position on the school board and her husbands rank mattered, third.... IF the Command Sargent Major was on board your kids better sit down, quit throwing those empty two liter soda bottles at the kid in the front of the bus OR your job was history by the next day at work. And last but damn sure not least, IF your a bus monitor and you don't have the physical spirit to stand up on that bus on the first day/last day of school and let those CHILDREN know who's the leader of the pack then you have NO business being on the payroll setting in a seat letting those mama's little darlin's walk all over you/ talk to you in an unkind manor or take any crap from the mother/father/General/principal/ teacher/ first Sargent or private first class who wants to tell you how to do your job. And you need to learn how to be friends to each and every one of those children even IF you want to strangle them the first chance you get because if they believe you are truly their friend they will

      defend you to the end but, if you are cool or hostile to them, they will treat you likewise.

      July 11, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Chris Tilley

      so true an that's why I had dropped out of school my 11th grade year because there is so many kinds in school who doesnt care an there going to go an ruin it for us who wanted our education I went to the board of education didn't help I kept going to principles nothing changed an I couldn't learn anything due to rudeness to the teachers fights breaking out an the bullying I wish there was more that could have been done i regret every day dropping out but I was wasting my time an If I could sue them I would

      July 11, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  9. Marcia Gregorio

    Teachers can only work with the kids who walk in their doors. We can't rewind the lives of those kids or their parents and start over. Keep fighting the good fight, Robyn.

    July 4, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  10. Democrats are the hope

    Send them to Africa to be boy soldiers. No loss.

    July 4, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • Mad Sam

      That is a great idea. Let them end their meaningless existences while fighting in support of an equally meaningless warlord like Joseph Kony.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:13 am |
  11. jacobsart

    Excellent article. Rehabilitation... what a concept. For a nation of so many supposed Christians, we sure are hard pressed to cough up some forgiveness for the pettiest of actions. I hope they reform and perhaps the media will follow-up with success stories of them in the future.

    July 3, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Whew

      'supposed Christians'? which testament will you pick and choose from? Some teachings from Jesus? The lord his father, who blatantly killed people left and right? Keep your religious ramblings to yourself. Stand for something reasonable, such as separation of church and state, or support more of your religious special interest groups, designed to enslave the rest of us with your' correct' religion.

      July 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
      • Zack

        Come on now, they were simply trying to make a point. For a nation that parades around Christianity, we certainly don't like to live it out. They made no mention of introducing prayer in schools or anything like that. If you bothered to understand Christianity you would understand that the New and Old testament are a collection and that Jesus is the recapitualtion of God meaning that in the OT people were trying to explain how they witnessed God in their lives, in the NT Jesus as the incarnate son of God was the Word of God meaning that it wasn't up to human interpretation. Again this is not religious propaganda and while I am a Christian, it is my belief within my faith system that there is a strong need for separation of Church and State. The Bible is not a book of morals as many like to insist, rather is a book detailing God's interaction with man kind, not with America as many like to persist. I only ask you to think before you speak.

        July 5, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
      • eddie

        excellent post., short and simple....Separation of Church and State., The way it was meant to be.

        July 7, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Mad Sam

      @jacobsart: I am an atheist or agnostic (not a Christian) and I believe – without qualms – that these bags of s c u m should be executed. What is your point? I am not a hypocrite.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:14 am |
    • Mad Sam

      @jacobsart: Spew your religious nonsense elsewhere. The best way to rehabilitate these thugs is with a .45 hollow-point round to the back of the head.






      July 12, 2012 at 1:24 am |
  12. adulthood

    Wait until they try to get a job. I wonder what I would find in a basic search. Its a small world when your ruthless actions and picture are all over the Internet. Forever.

    And if youve made enemies they will tip your employer about who they just hired and you will likely lose your job. Employers don't want their business tainted with this. Trust me this will happen to you. You've earned it. Bet your folks are might proud. Gooooood luck boys!

    July 3, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  13. Brett

    NO PITY, Line em up against a wall and shoot everyone of the little c*cksuckers!

    July 3, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Marcia Gregorio

      Sad you feel that way. Violence and hatred is never a solution.

      July 4, 2012 at 9:00 am |
      • Michael

        It has been the way of the world since humans took their first step. Reasonable philosophical argument, but violence and hatred will always exist.

        July 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  14. Slice

    Robyn- things may go all warm and fuzzy like your classroom. I tried that my first few years in a different work setting. But after a few years of working with these rough "I ain't learning nothin!" thugs, I just give them the reality check: SINK OR SWIM. This is likely your LAST second chance. I'm tired of a nation breeding video game, sneaker, and gutter rap addicts who refuse to embrace civility or literacy. And I don't have to tolerate it as a taxpayer.

    July 3, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Slice

      I'm a provider of services. You don't want my services, get the hell out.

      July 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Gamer

      i honestly can't figure out why you threw gamers under the bus here. The most ignorant part of your post.

      July 4, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  15. Holly

    This is a fantastic example of results of an overly empathetic society and Gov that have gone too far in limiting teaching techniques that (within reason) allow parents, teachers, bus drivers, etc to employ and hold their child accountable. These very limits and social views of ‘it’s not okay to … (plug in practice here)’ has in many ways pressure any responsible adult/ parent/ teacher/ bus driver to give up the good fight in holding children accountable. This very substructure has taken the power out of disciplining the students at home, school and on the buses. The mentoring process is compromised and will be a buckle factor in the future and success of this country.
    The one question that I haven’t seen asked is “ If this woman who was bullied was a bus monitor… and she carried no authority to monitor/ discipline children as needed…. what on Earth is the purpose of a monitor?”

    July 3, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • gclaheh11

      I agree that what they did was wrong and they deserved punishment, but they are still very young. Once the boys realize what they did was wrong, and I believe they have, they need to be built back up. If we constantly remind them of their past misdeeds and tell them that they are unredeemable, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they know that they will never be forgiven then they will never want to change their ways.

      July 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  16. Mad Sam

    Actually, contrary to what the author said, many alternative schools are, indeed, "delinquent storage facilities." They are holding pens for future convicts. Many of the same people in alternative schools due to offenses in their youth (drug use, bullying, etc.) will populate the prisons of America in a few years. They are s c u m. We should fix the system so that those students who do not care about their education get permanently ejected as soon as possible. Also, we must increase the penalties for all criminal offenses; if one of the deadbeats thrown out from a school for misconduct gets caught committing a crime, he should be given a lethal injection, not a chance to harm more people.

    July 3, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Slice

      Ageed on all points!

      July 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
      • Slice

        except the lethal injection.

        July 3, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  17. POlli

    There are so many lousy teachers out there that IF you don't show up because you are working 45 miles away they treat you poorly the rest of the year...it is always about what the parent didn't do instead of what the teacher fails to do...

    They never ask for homework or go over the homework anymore-kind of kills the reason to use it as a reinforcment tool, nor does it give the kids the reward they need for actually finally getting the information....They say,"well he ws supposed to turn it in...' Meaning they never asked.......so they create the loser mentality in the child.....of course they are too stupid to realize what they re doing so what do you expect when you get children that rebel....????

    No child would have treated me that way....and they wouldn't lose a whole year of their school, nor be ostracized in such a way not to be rewelcomed into the arms of the school district....

    July 3, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  18. POlli

    It is so retarded of the teachers and educators to say repeatedly that it is the kids parents fault for everything. There is actually no proof this is correct. Also....In a world of discipline just exactly what was this woman doing?

    The schools have crippled the individuals ability to discipline, takne away effective in school discipline and use suspension as a way to get out of dealing with the kids and mainstreaming the kids.....

    Not to mention some teachers are sickos....and we see a lot of that....the good terachers keep the kids, use effective discipline and do not seek to sabotage the kids, and are of keen moral character to know that they need to change the situation if they are losing control....And I believe every teachwer should be able to use corporal punshment if need be...like the nuns with the rulers....

    July 3, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Robyn Barberry

      POlli- The hardest thing about both teaching and parenting is that both jobs are based on coaxing an independently thinking, yet grossly underdeveloped human being into becoming a respectable, successful adult.

      Teachers already have so much on our plates that there's only so much we can do for each child in the hour, give or take, we see them, five days a week, for nine months of the year. I do what I can with what I have and it's still never enough. I wish I could do more for my students, but my own family needs and deserves me more.

      Parenting is a series of decisions, every one of which could have gross negative consequences. Parents are under more pressure than ever, and, unfortunately, some are buckling under the weight. It may help them to know that schools are willing to help if parents can muster the courage to ask for it.

      A little over one hundred years ago, teachers were forbidden to marry and their students became the center of their whole existence. During that time, one parent worked to provide for the family and one stayed at home to be with the children. Life was simpler then, but we're not going back. Together, we need to find a way to be there for kids. First, our own. Then, any others we can help.

      July 3, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  19. Sammie

    I am still wondering where these children's parents are, and why aren't they involved in this issue? Everything your child does is a direct reflection of their parents, and how they are being raised. I myself and guilty of seeing a mis-behaved child and going "wow his parents need parenting classes". Parents should be required to be involved in their childs education, and extra-curricular activites. If a child is involved in sports, the parents should have to be at so many meets/practices and games in order for the child to play. The parents should also have to attend a once a month parent night at the childs school, where they meet with all their childs teachers, and discuss the childs behavior, and education. Parents are no longer involved in education, but blame the schools when their child flunks a class, or is held back. Be a part of your childs education, stop being a friend, and be a parent, and these issues would not happen near as often, if at all.

    July 3, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  20. sheldon

    Well written.

    July 3, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  21. Debbie

    As a fellow English teacher, I have wondered for years if there is a correlation between our children's failure to really READ books and their lack of empathy. The ability to put yourself in the shoes of another is learned by reading fiction and is tied to imagination. Watching a movie is viewing what someone else's imagination has created, not actively using your own; this imagination leads most of us to imagining how others feel and thus empathizing. I don't know the solution, but getting our kids away from TV and into reading might help with this, along with a myriad of other social problems.

    July 3, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Mikey

      Good point! i would also add that we live in a culture that supports disrespectful behavior....take a look at TV (the object of most relaity TV shows is to humilaite & defeat your opponent throught conniving means), political infighting, our cultural humor (usually comedy at someone else's expense), our excessive emphasis on the individual, foreign policy (we're in everybody's backyards)...the country has produced an insensitive, unfeeling, narcissistic generation and people wonder why.

      July 3, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  22. Bruceb

    The entire system failed here. Why aren't he parents involved in the sentencing. This is behaviour learned from the kids surroundings. The bus driver failed, the school system failed, the parents failed and so did the monitor. I do not condone the actions of these animals, I blame the entire system for encouraging the actions and not taking the necessary actions to correct the situation.

    July 3, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  23. Chris

    I'm sorry but that comment 'the parents should kill themselves for shame' made me laugh for about 3 mins.
    But seriously kids need to understand that if they go too far with bullying (we probably ALL have joined in and picked on someone at some point – even if you were bullied yourself) there can be 'real world' precussions. Now these kids have a much less chance of being successfull later in their lives. And it's fair. They are old enough to disrespect an elderly lady like that they deserve to work in Mcdonalds anfd nothing more

    July 3, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Slice

      hey, McD's gives benefits! That's too generous. How about making my shoes in Asia?

      July 3, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  24. Really Jersey

    Sadly, unless their families do something to alter their behavior these kids will probably be among the braggarts that learn nothing from being sent to a different school. They already recorded & posted their vicious acts on the internet to brag about it. Unless they change, they will learn nothing from being in that school other than having sympathy from all the other thugs. Face it; you & other teachers at alternative schools are just warehousing them to keep others from harm. The real work will happen in the community service program & in the required anti bullying lectures.

    July 3, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • Jen

      Too much liberal "it can be fixed"... these kids are mean to the core... they have been identified. Next time they are caught I hope they get some real time meeting Jake in the shower upstate. I very much doubt they can be reformed. Bad to the core.

      July 3, 2012 at 7:59 am |
      • Jersey Ben

        How can you make a determination about an individual that is thirteen years old?

        When I was in middle school, I was bullied by several boys, mostly because I would not engage them in confrontation. This persisted until I, for other reasons, transferred to a private school. Several years later, while delivering pizza, I had the pleasure of meeting that bully again. To my surprise, the encounter was not what I expected. My bully apologized for his juvenile actions of a decade earlier. So, I ask again, how can you authoritatively pronounce that these kids are "bad to the core"?

        The only constant in life is change. People change. They learn from their mistakes and poor judgment. I am sure that you have engaged in some activity or made some decision, when you were young, that you regret or self-admit was wrong.

        July 3, 2012 at 9:53 am |
      • Mad Sam

        @Jersey Ben: Are you saying that apologizing five years later in a few sentences makes up for three years of severe torment and a lifetime of suffering from the emotional effects of such mistreatment?

        All bullies deserve to be tortured and executed as soon as possible. We would deal with fewer murderers, rapists, animal abusers, robbers, thieves, and arsonists if we implemented such a policy.

        July 3, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  25. Concerned

    I am wondering....what is the job of the bus monitors? Are they there just be an adult riding the bus or are they supposed to keep the peace and quiet any rebelous start ups before they get out of hand. I am not siding with the bullies but just trying to figure out why she just sat there and let them bully her. I would have handle it a lot differently for sure. The bus monitors are adult and should be the ones in control. and like has been said....what about the bus driver? Back in my days on riding buses in rural NY....if the kids started acting up (we didn't have monitors) the bus driver would pull the bus off the road and get things under control before the bus would move again. He never laid a hand on anyone, but his words spoke volumes....peace reigned.

    July 3, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • Doodlebug2222

      This was my take on it. I'm sorry but I feel the bus monitor was and is incapable of performing her job properly if she cannot take some insults from children. First, were these children ever given the low-down on how she expected them to act? (relaying her expectations). Second, when they did begin, what did she do – ignore it? Allowed it to continue? This was incorrect - these are kids and their only weapon words. She is an adult – sticks and stones you know. Stand up, let it be known that name calling of ANYONE is not acceptable and if it continues names will be taken – so when it starts up again – STAND and TAKE NAMES. Then make a copy, write -copy to file- at the bottom, and turn in the original. Do a follow-up later and if nothing is done, put pressure on those who are susposed to be handling this so it does not continue and exculate. There is a process and regardless of how these kids acted, her job was clear and she lacked ability to do it properly. I do not feel sorry for her because some kids said some mean things – because she sat there, allowed it and did nothing afterwards.

      July 3, 2012 at 8:40 am |
      • American

        Wow, blame the victim much? Did you people even watch the video? First, she did try to get them to stop. Repeatedly. Second, I do not doubt she was blindsided by the level of their cruelty. These were not average insults. Lucky for you if you have never experienced this kind of verbal abuse, but it is designed to paralyze and inflict massive amounts of pain. What was she supposed to do, strap them down and tape their mouths shut? These kids got what they deserved. The apathy and cruelty displayed would only be a sign of what's to come. And it ain't pretty.
        Good for the monitor for enduring it as well as she did.

        July 3, 2012 at 8:59 am |
      • gclaheh11

        I totally 100% agree with you. What those children did was wrong but at the same time that woman didn't handle the situation well and she should probably find another job if she is unwilling to do anything and is unable to handle being called names. I agree that the woman most likely allowed the situation to escalate and it wouldn't have happened if she did something before.

        July 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Mad Sam

      @Concerned: Stop blaming the victim and acknowledge reality. The criminals in this case should be punished with death. Period.

      July 12, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  26. nisroc00

    I agree the these kids needed a tune up and maybe I am soft but I don't think a suspension for one year is going to set their mind right. So they are given the alternative but mixing this kids minds with the mind of other wrong doings is going to help or create more wrong doings. Today's prison systems do not help and mixing bad mind with more bad mind is problem why. Time to think seriously about how do punish those kid who do wrong correctly

    July 3, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • Robyn Barberry

      nisroc00 – The difference between prisons and alternative schools is that prisons are full of adults, most of whom know right from wrong, and alternative schools are full of kids, who should know better, but often don't. Prisoners spend a majority of their day isolated from each other with correctional officers looking on to "correct" misbehaviors. Students in an alternative school spend their entire day learning in classrooms alongside other students with an adult in the room who "teaches" them. P.S. Believe it or not, there are prison success stories, too.

      July 3, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  27. Kristian


    How do we get children to see what you do? A chance to work through a program that keeps their future on track with a fair punishment to boot. I try to be the kind of parent that educates my children about consequence, but I struggle to get my children to realize that things could be far worse. The students I teach have a chance to earn a good grade, and better behavior seems to be easier to come by with post-secondary students. When we are obligated to keep children in learning programs regardless of the situation (public schools) this process can become very difficult. I hope you continue to help those in need and part that attentive schooling becomes a better venue for great successes rather than a place to forget about the children that no one wants to see. God bless!

    July 3, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • Doodlebug2222

      I see the inaction of the bus monitor being far worse then what these kid did. She, failed in her job and brought this to the medias attention and did so from the standpoint of a victim. I only see someone who needs more training on how to be an effective leader and understand how to report issues on the bus correctly (vice dialing reporters). For the children, I believe this was something that they were caught up in and esculated. I do not see suspension for a year being fair, but because it got into the media, they are trying to drive home a point. And whose fault is this? We go back to the bus monitor who apparently cannot take some taunting from children, which in my opinion is totally unfalr. Because she could not handle the situation correctly – they are the only ones punished? No, not fair.

      True, how they acted was incorrect, so do as employers would do – get them some sensitivity training. At the same time, retrain the bus-monitor to be able to take some jeers and sour looks as well as understand how to maintain control of persons she is directly responsible for the safety of. Think of this - if she can't calm them, control them – how could we expect her to coordinate any type of emergency event or procedure if it so happened? If they won't listen to her, and she is in a position of power – do we blame them or her? I know we tell teachers to "handle it – period" so why not Bus Monitors? I think it's because she played the "oh poor me – I'm old" card.

      July 3, 2012 at 8:46 am |
      • geeky

        You are either just being a troll, or you have some brats at home who do some of the same things these kids did, and you make excuses for them, too. What these kids did is far beyond normal behavior and there is no excuse. No one should have to put up with this.

        July 3, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Robyn Barberry

      Kristian – The answer is simple: Teaching is not a magic show. Be honest and up front with kids. Hidden or absent agendas are lost on them. Transparency about your methods builds trust. Explain your expectations up front, establish consequences and reinforce them consistently. When they make mistakes, stop them as soon as you see it. Whether it's a math problem or a social misstep, explain what they did wrong, why it was wrong, and what to do next time to make it right.

      July 3, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  28. Tiesha

    jus cone to me to solve all de world problems, I will fix everyting. my guydance is much needed, u see how i solve da bus isue? tiesha....for the RECRD

    July 3, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  29. Tiesha

    send these boys to da hood in their magic bus. stop bus in middle of da hood. get the bus driva and the old white lady outa there. let th homies take ova the bus. they will stomp boys. let a homie be da new monitor and these boys will kiss his ass . it de only way.

    July 3, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • Tyrone

      i like it. we make them put on a play in the hood called, why my ass should not get beat. then we beat their ass. then tsake all money and cell phones. if parents skwak we beat ther ass too,. tiesh right, it the only way.

      July 3, 2012 at 12:21 am |
      • Tyrone

        ps u never see blak kids do this. they need a reason like be disrepected or someone flashin cash around or like that. otherise they dont do this, it w-- trash, u no. tell me i wrong.

        July 3, 2012 at 12:24 am |
      • Mad Sam

        @Tyrone: Blacks bully themselves and people of other races all the time in inner-city schools. Stop being an idiot.

        July 12, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Hooray

      You two should drown each other.

      July 4, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  30. Anton

    None of it handle well

    Where is bus driver. I'm sure this was not first time

    Why are kids so unruly on this bus. District's fault.

    Parents awful. One interviewed by Cooper could not state what he would do to punish his son. He was flabbergasted by question and stated never been in this situation.

    For all the parents in the world with behaving kids, we know it would take us a mili second to answer that question

    Naturally Anderson did not push it like always.

    Parents need massive intervention

    Weak response from school. Silly to pull them from school. They will fail in life as a result and suffer depression

    However on what planet can you hit , poke, another person and it not be assault???

    Should have been arrested and spent night in juvenile hall and parents deal with court cost.

    No way kids pull this off without other kids being compliant.

    Every kid in the four has a broken family. Just cause they can't state it now : 20 years from now you'll see them detail.

    Parents awful.

    July 2, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  31. Democrats are the hope

    I am sure that the parents bought the brats phones, computers, and everything else. Their parents probably did the same thing. Why should they care as they will end up living at home anyway after school.

    July 2, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
  32. Obama in 2012

    Even better, beat them with a bat until their skulls are so broken they can run for congress. The parents should kill themselves in shame anyway.

    July 2, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  33. Loyal Northern Democrat

    They should be beaten with a belt every day for a year.

    July 2, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Mad Sam

      @Loyal Northern Democrat: They should be tortured and executed, not beaten.

      July 12, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  34. Beverly


    July 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  35. Kabimima

    Ms. Barberry,
    You are the person we all want teaching our children. I hope the administration, parents and children in your school appreciate what they have in you. I know your job isn't easy, but you obviously found your true calling. I hope that your students can find their way in school and in life. May they each find their true potential and may we all be given the chance to prove we deserved another chance.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  36. Martina

    Seems that unless these kids had a prior history the punishment may be a little excessive. There are many kids that are bullied, called fat, ugly etc. and they don't even have enough maturity to deal with billing. Some kill themselves. When was the last time when a kid who bullied another kid was sent to a special school?

    July 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • heeeey

      back in the day they used to give the "strap" across the hand for misbehavior......If given the choice Id choose that over a year suspension, its not as cruel

      July 2, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • bj

      My nephew was sent to an alternative school.. His mother was dying of brain cancer and a schoolmate made some hateful comments to him, about her wig. He shoved the kid into the lockers hard. This was 21 years ago. He was much bigger than his tormentor. Bullying affects the target for life. They never recover if no one stops it. IF it happens at school, the school is responsible together with the parents.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
      • Mad Sam

        Kill all bullies and criminals. Problem solved.

        July 12, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  37. Loyal Northern Democrat

    They should be neutered and so should their parents so no more bad seeds can be thrown.

    July 2, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Martina

      There are way too many people out there that should be neutered.

      July 2, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
      • Democrats are the hope

        Good point. Let us start with them.

        July 2, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Doodlebug2222

      I don't get why blame the kids 100%? You have a person of authority, getting paid to keep some measure of control over a bus of kids and who apparently is incapable of doing so. So do you blame the kids for this? No. You blame someone that needs more training. Think about the other reasons she is there – for possible emergencies or other situations. If she cannot take a bit of taunting, and handle it – how could she handle any real type of issues that might arise on this bus? Either you can – or you cannot . If you cannot then it sets the wrong atmosphere. Sorry, I see fault here as belonging to the person who is paid to keep control and did not. Things were allowed to esculate. For the kids, I say sensitivity training. They are kids she is an adult – weigh in the punishment to fit this.

      July 3, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  38. Tim

    Ms. Barberry,
    Neurological development notwithstanding, I am pleased that the offenders are being held accountable for their actions. And I am pleased that the accountability is proportionate to the offense. Thank you for the explanation of alternative educational programs.

    July 2, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  39. Laurence Ringo

    I gotta go with Tony on this one;we all of us were kids at one point,and most if not all of us have done stupid and thougtless,sometimes cruel things in our youths.If Ms.Klein had been seriously injured or,God forbid,even killed,I might feel differently.As it stands,to a large degree I place the blame squarely on the parents.Every adult who has children knows exactly what kind of world we live in,and its not the responsibility of teachers or your childrens'"peers"to help you raise your kids! Don't wait until your son is a defiant knucklehead or your daughter is a boy-crazy,Snookie wanna-be before trying to discipline them for their missteps and bad choices.Surely we ought to have learned that by now.

    July 2, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Mad Sam

      If you are cruel toward an innocent, weaker being, you deserve to die. Being young is not an excuse for committing an injustice.

      July 12, 2012 at 1:08 am |
  40. Tony

    I agree that I was a little upset by these kids, and I am so glad that she received the amount of attention and money she did. She deserved it all. The fact is, they are kids. Thats it.

    We all did stupid things we regret, so let them grow up and learn from this. I agree that this lady was picked on, called fat, was poked at, etc., but these kids will remember this moment for the rest of their lives also.

    Let it go.

    July 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Penny

      Not so sure of this..being sent to another school is not the solution. Stay and face the faculty, students and not have any privileges of bus rides, field trips, etc.

      July 2, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
      • Robyn Barberry

        Believe me, Penny, an alternative school is not a pleasant place. Expelling "problem students" enables a safe and functioning learning environment for the teachers and students at the home school. Placement seldom is for the comfort of the expelled. Students wear uniforms, which are strictly enforced. We have no extracurricular activities and very few elective classes. Homecoming and prom do not exist. My school is old and un-air conditioned, students are escorted everywhere they need to go (even the bathroom in certain cases), and a good number of them have lost their bus privileges.

        July 2, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  41. Jj

    These little hooligans should have been taken behind the woodshed

    July 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • duckforcover

      Actually, their parents should be taken out back. Parental responsibility has disappeared from our society. Make them sit in detention with the kid. Fine them when the kid behaves like an animal. Just hand 'em a ticket and a court date. They can pay medical bills for the kids their little terrors beat up. There are lots of ways to make someone think before they breed.

      July 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Mad Sam

      @Jj: I will be glad to finish your sentence.

      "These little hooligans should have been taken behind the woodshed ..."

      AND RAPED.

      July 12, 2012 at 1:07 am |
  42. Boo

    I'm with Mrs. Klein. These monsters aren't sorry and their parents should be ashamed of themselves for raising such rotten kids.

    July 2, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Martina

      well. They are sorry... that they got caught.

      July 2, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
      • Robyn Barberry

        It's not exactly that they got caught. They recorded themselves and posted it to YouTube. The internet is a global stage – far bigger than the little worlds of teens. They can't grasp that or its greater implications.

        The boys' inconsideration for the consequences of not only creating but publishing the evidence of their heinous act is a sure sign of their immature, irrational thinking. In their minds, other kids would be impressed by how brazen they were. Ms. Klein had ceased to be a person to them and had dwindled to a pawn in a twisted show-off game. I do not and will never defend what they did. I'm only trying to explain my view on why it happened.

        I doubt the boys would laugh if they watched the video now. In fact, seeing themselves behaving in such a deplorable way may be what it takes to help them to change while their minds are still forming.

        July 2, 2012 at 8:29 pm |