A recent Today Show Parenting article discussed the situation of an infuriated father who got onto a middle school bus to confront the bullies who were tormenting his daughter. The question is whether he went too far and by the time I found the article, more than 2400 comments were in the thread. I’ve been on the phone with my own child’s principal about bus bullying and can understand this father’s upset, but some comments and questions are in order.
- First, let’s be frank and not confuse these youth as children. The bullies – thugs, actually – were physically assaulting a young teen and humiliating her by placing condoms on her head. At least some of the bullies were young teen males with access to prophylactics and there are frankly sexual overtones to this kind of activity. I’d be furious, too.
- Second, the article leaves silent the question of whether the school district and administrators were aware of this behavior. Given the father knew enough to be out there, I can surmise that he’d heard of previous problems and that this was not the first incident. But were the school authorities aware of the situation, either from the family or more especially, the bus driver?
- Third, did the father enter the bus immediately after the incident or was his daughter out of immediate danger?
- What precisely was the driver doing about the behaviors? The bus driver is an extension of the school and does have a responsibility to maintain order. I understand that some children can be vicious little bastards and can literally make a busride an excursion into Lord Of The Flies, but that doesn’t absolve the driver of any responsibility. In the past, I’ve known drivers to actually quit the route and immediately return the full load of children to the school for management by the principal; what was this driver doing?
Should he have climbed aboard the bus? It depends upon the timing; if she was out of immediate danger, then he was – as much as I want to agree with him – wrong. The immediate concern is the physical safety and the short term fixes are to simply remove her from the bus until the situation is resolved. The later concern is the handling of the violence so that it’s stopped. In this regard, the Sheriff’s office was correct in that they could also have been contacted since the nature of the harassment/bullying was so overtly sexual that it surpassed the school’s usual scope.
I suspect that the guy will be exonerated or given a very light sentence and given the fear of God. I sympathize with him and in the heat of the moment might have even responded similarly were condoms involved. And I hope that the actions move beyond just the father and extend to the thugs who would treat a teenage girl in such a way.