Bullies hurt themselves.
Karen Klein said she didn’t know what to do when a group of middle school students bullied her last week.
The 68-year-old bus monitor sat mostly silent, looking out of a window, as a smart phone captured a sad display of humanity, as teenagers in upstate New York bombed her with hurtful words and physical ridicule.
But what was most painful to Klein, whose eldest son took his life 10 years ago, was when a boy said of her family, “They all killed themselves because they didn’t want to be near you.”
After a series of news interviews and an outpouring of support from strangers, Klein has said she doesn’t believe the taunters are bad kids and doesn’t want to press criminal charges.
The bullies have also apologized for their cruel actions, according to media reports.
As both a newswoman and a mother, the story has reached me in different ways.
Bullying is a frequent topic in the news, and there’s always a sheet being sent home with my school-aged children about it. Often included is a checklist for parents, teaching us how to recognize if our child is being bullied.
And there are also handouts, sharing with students the principles of good behavior and kindness toward their peers.
But my third-grader has yet to bring home a paper, instructing parents of what to do upon finding out their child is a bully.
Given their strong personalities, I’d be stunned if my children ever became victims of bullying.
But I’d be absolutely heartbroken if my kids did the bullying.
I’m sure the parents in New York felt the same way.
As I’ve thought about the latest bullying news, something else Klein said resonated with me. She didn’t think her taunters were bad kids because, individually, they’re fine. But when they get into a group, that’s when trouble starts.
The latter is often true regardless of age or location. That bus could’ve just as easily been a classroom or office.
Like Klein, I would’ve mostly ignored those bullies 50-some years my junior. They’re kids. They did something bad, and I’m hopeful they are learning something from this experience.
And I’d probably do the same if I was being bullied by someone my own age.
Like I tell my children, there’s nothing you can do to bullies that they haven’t already done to themselves. As Maya Angelou said, “Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host.”
If there’s one thing I’m sure of about bullies it’s that they’re not happy people. Happy people don’t want to hurt others.