Power Grid Blog
What To Do With Bullies
June 28, 2012 | Joshua Benjamin
Since its release one week ago, the Youtube video of bullied bus monitor Karen Klein has been viewed over seven million times.
The incident of bullying has turned into somewhat of a spectacle – Karen Klein is a household name, the online fund to send Klein on the “vacation of a lifetime” has raised over $650,000, and, according to local police, Klein’s 7th grade bullies have received thousands of death threats.
As serious as bullying is, violence is not the answer—and the people sending death threats are being bullies themselves. What makes Karen Klein’s video so moving is that she didn’t bully back. The video of her stoic, non-violent response to what was happening to her is an example for all of us. But no one should have to do what she did, because no one should feel the need to resort to bullying.
So how should authorities respond when young students treat their peers and elders this way?
This is an important question for everyone, but it’s particularly relevant in the disability community because over 85% of students with disabilities are bullied.
How can we teach bullies right from wrong and, in doing so, demonstrate the power of people with disabilities?
In the wake of Columbine, most schools in the United States implemented bullying policies that clearly defined bullying and prohibited it. More than that, 49 U.S. states now enforce laws that require public schools to ratify those types of policies.
Nonetheless, these policies generally do not contain punishment guidelines, so specific disciplinary actions vary from case to case.
Some students receive detentions, and others are suspended. In the case of Karen Klein, many in the blogosphere have called for her bullies’ expulsion. In the case of Tyler Clementi, a gay Rutgers sophomore whose experience being bullied led him to commit suicide, the bully Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
The most important factor when disciplining bullies is having a goal. What do we seek with our discipline? Revenge or resolution? Prevention or education?
Dharun Ravi was released from jail after 20 days. He is now on probation and must complete 300 hours of community service. When all is said and done, he will probably stop bullying because he knows the legal consequences.
But not because he knows the value of his victim.
In some cases, bullies bully because of coarse family histories. A shaky home atmosphere is no excuse to persecute a person with a disability, but it is an essential piece of the puzzle to combat bullying, because, sometimes, bullies are as emotionally persecuted as their victims. We must teach those young people to channel their negative emotions into outlets other than easy peer targets, like sports or art.
Today, Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) launched the bipartisan Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus. Its goal is to not only uncover bullying and protect individuals from it; the caucus aims to protect bullies from issues that trouble them. AAPD commends Congressman Honda for bringing this issue into the federal spotlight.