What Does a Bus Monitor Do? (answer: possibly nothing)

After reading the story of Karen Klein, the bullied bus monitor, now now rich old lady as donations pour in, I wondered why there was even a bus monitor on board of this bus.  I found this job description for bus monitor for another school and it seems simple enough: help kids cross the road, keep order on the bus, help with safety drills, keep order on the bus, and, oh yeah, keep order on the bus.  Now, Karen Klein has had, as we say, a very bad week. Nobody deserves to be treated that way. Those 4 kids are brats raised by parents who probably don’t have a clue what their kids are really like. They’ve since offered lame apologies but they won’t live this down for a long time.

Again, nobody deserves to be treated that way, and I have no information how good/bad a bus monitor Klein was, but I wonder several things about this story and the purpose of a bus monitor.

1) Where was the bus driver during the bullying of this bus monitor?  If he/she didn’t know what was going on – why not? I’m old enough to say “in my day” and “in my day” we had only the bus driver – a twenty-something named Cindy (and one named Sue, I think) and somehow they kept everyone in line all while driving. Nobody stepped out of line.  Way to go NY bus driver!

2) Why didn’t Karen Klein stand up, move to the front of the bus and get the bus drivers’ help (ie, stop the bus, go back to the kids and take away the camera, and separate the kids).  Has she been asked this by the media? If not, why not?

3) If the bus monitor’s paid job is to keep order and prevent altercations, what skills or training is she given to prevent or discourage behaviors these kids demonstrated?  I would suggest none.  Being a kind old grandma isn’t an excuse for doing a poor job. Obviously a bus monitor is probably not exactly the most exciting job and those who do it have their reasons (part-time income, maybe a fan of the film Speed, who knows?).

4) Respect – As we know through countless reality shows, adults don’t respect adults, and kids often don’t respect adults – perhaps this disrespect has increased or perhaps it is just more openly demonstrated due to mass media/internet. In the school system, we see awful kids and we see awful teachers and administrators.  In the school system, it’s difficult to get rid of bad teachers (thanks, in part,  to unions’ brilliant policies, but that’s another topic). So, perhaps kids learn that it doesn’t matter how godawful you are,  how disrespectful you are, you’re likely to keep your job and remain a paid employee, or remain a student or bus rider (under the threat of a lawsuit against the school).

So, did Karen Klein command the respect from the kids from her first day on the job? Or for all the other days of the fifteen years she worked as a bus monitor?  If not, why not?  Did the kids see her job as a bus monitor as nothing more than an adult getting paid to ride the bus and do very little to keep order? Did they not understand the importance of her job? Or to the kids,  is she just one more adult in the school system who is literally just along for the ride and nothing else. I don’t know.  Again, those kids are scum and she didn’t deserve it but I wonder why this happened.

In high school, I’ve seen substitute teachers brought to tears on day 1 because whatever training they had, it didn’t include managing a group. Weakness is discerned pretty quickly by kids, especially teenagers, and they will pounce and make lives hellish for new and substitute teachers. Full disclosure: I don’t know that I could cut it but I know when I’m in over my head in situations and I know how to yell “bus driver, stop the friggin’ bus! I am outta here!”  It doesn’t make it right, but ignoring the ugly side of human behavior doesn’t make it go away.  Give teachers and bus monitors the skills to manage a group OR the wisdom to remove themselves from the situation before it reaches the level it did on that bus with Karen Klein.

Rule #1: it won’t always be like this on a bus. Don’t believe me? Go see The Sweet Hereafter. Or Speed. Or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.


One final point 5)  – Camera phones.  Parents, did you know there are cell phones out there without cameras?  (or cameras with no storage so that your kid can’t record an impromptu juniorized version of A Clockwork Orange).  What is the reason you give when you tell your more reasonable peers you had to get Skippy or Buffy an iPhone 4 ? For safety? Not true. So your brat can call or text you their every move? Or is it so your brat likes you a little bit more?  For hundreds of years, kids commuted to and from school without the hardware they carry now.   A fancy cell phone is not any better in protecting your kids than a regular, practical phone.  In fact, it’s worse. Kids don’t have good judgment and here you give them a phone that allows them to take photos/videos of anything or anyone, access most everything on the internet, and to chat with anyone on the planet.  And all they have to do in return is answer your phone call or text as you ‘check in’ on them.   So, when you treat them as if they have great enough judgment to carry around a $500 phone and behave responsibly, don’t wonder too much when it all falls apart and they reveal themselves to be the uncontrollable little monsters they are.