Back in June of this year, Karen Huff Klein, a 68-year-old bus monitor from New York, was caught on tape being harassed by the middle school students on her bus. These kids were vicious. They insulted her, swore at her, poked her, and threatened her. Throughout it all, Ms. Klein sat in her seat and took the abuse. She kept her back to the kids and stoically looked out the window. When a video of the incident went viral on YouTube, a sympathetic Canadian man set up a donation fund called, Give Karen H. Klein a Vacation! People sent in money in droves to support this poor grandmotherly woman. When Karen was finally presented with her cheque it was for a whopping $700,000.
Fast forward to November. Halifax bus driver Heather Vidito is caught on tape breaking up a fight between two teenage boys. The video starts with the two boys pounding on each other in their seats, while the bus is moving. They eventually end up rolling around on top of each other in the aisle. You can hear the bus driver yelling at them to stop, along with the voices of the other kids urging them on. The bus driver handles the situation quickly and profanely. She drops the f-bomb a few times and tells one kid to move his ass to the front. The fight ends within seconds of her arrival and the bus is back on the road in less than a minute. She never touches the kids. This video also went viral and quickly caught the eye of Stock Transportation (her employer) and the school board. Within 24 hours, the bus driver was fired. The kids who were pounding on each other and cursing at the bus driver were “disciplined” according to the “code of conduct”. This usually means a maximum sentence of a 5-day
vacation suspension. And these kids have the satisfaction of knowing they got their bus driver fired. That’s a lot of power for a kid who doesn’t even shave yet.
So, let’s compare.
If you let some snot nosed kids push you around and treat you like crap, you might get sympathy and affection (and in Karen’s case, a huge whack of cash.) But if you actually stick up for yourself and do your job, you could get fired.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You can’t have adults swearing willy-nilly at kids. You have to have some professional decorum. But the bus driver’s job is to keep ALL of the children on the bus safe as they travel from school to home and back again. What if one of those squabbling prepubescent monsters, or an innocent “by-sitter” got seriously hurt while the bus driver was politely asking them to stop their shenanigans and take their seats, please? Can you imagine the outcry?
On the other side of the coin, while my heart goes out to Karen Klein, I think some job training would have been in order. As I watched the video, I wondered what her actual duties as a “bus monitor” were? If she couldn’t protect herself, how could she protect others? Was she actually keeping the other kids (the ones not acting like devil spawn) safe? The behaviour of the bullies was unacceptable, to say the least. It was outrageous and they should have to walk to school from now until they graduate…both ways…uphill…in a snowstorm.
Both of these women were in desperate need of some on-the-job training. How do you deal with kids who are fighting, belittling, cursing and swearing? Sitting quietly and taking the abuse doesn’t help anyone, while cursing and swearing at kids is unacceptable. Employers need to get on the ball here and help staff deal with these out of control kids.
Meanwhile, if I had to choose, I would rather my kids travel on a bus with someone who can stand up to bullies and, when necessary, kick some ass (figuratively speaking, of course). I would hope she could keep the f-bomb as part of her inside voice but if it happened to slip out in a moment of crisis, I might be willing to look the other way.
By all means, Stock should discipline Heather Vidito. But fire her? That’s just f-ing ridiculous.