When I was in middle school, I rode the school bus every day with a bus driver who regularly got picked on.
I remember his name was Fred because the kids on the bus called him "Farmer Fred," I think because he always wore overalls and had a farmer look about him.
Usually Fred would yell at the boys to sit down or be quiet, but there wasn't much else he could do. He had to drive the bus.
I remember feeling bad for the driver, but there wasn't anything anyone else could really do, either. If I had stood up to the bullies, I would have just become their target instead.
I was reminded of that situation after the recent case of Karen Klein, the bus monitor who was severely abused by kids in Greece, N.Y.
The video of her being harassed and driven to tears went viral, and she has ultimately gotten more than $600,000 in donations after people were outraged by the incident.
I hate to say it, but when I heard about this, I wasn't really surprised that something like that could happen.
A school bus is a perfect environment for the worst cases of bullying to play themselves out, with very few repercussions.
Students are trapped on the bus for what could be as long as an entire class period, and there is almost no adult supervision. (We didn't have a monitor, just the bus driver.)
It's great that people are outraged about the monitor who got bullied, and raised so much money for her.
But I hope the incident can also raise awareness about the larger issue of bullying and how cruel kids can be, especially in environments that make it easy for abuse to thrive.
The fact that Karen Klein's bullies are now themselves getting death threats doesn't help the situation, either. It just turns bullying into a vicious cycle.
I remember in fourth grade, my school (I went to a private school for a short time) brought in a counselor or psychologist to talk to us about bullying.
The girls and boys were split into separate groups for the counselor's talk. When she asked how many people had been bullied, I was shocked to see most of the girls raise their hands, including some who were bullies themselves.
When I was talking about the bullying issue recently, one of my friends argued kids should learn to defend or protect themselves, and that bullying happens in the adult world, too.
While I do think people should learn to defend themselves, this argument also reminds me of the notion that rape victims should have worn longer skirts, which I would hope most people don't agree with.
We could teach kids to be less "sensitive" or to stand up for themselves, but we could also teach kids not to be jerks.
Abuse often becomes a cycle, as my fourth-grade class showed me. And as the poetW.H. Audensaid "all schoolchildren learn, / those to whom evil is done / do evil in return."
I hope all the recent talk about the effects of bullying - the teenagers who commit suicide or the school bus monitor reduced to tears - can get adults to say enough is enough.
Kids will always be kids. It's up to adults to decide what kind of values they teach, what behavior they put up with and, ultimately, what kind of world they want to see.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun