Bullies breed fear
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Marie Hollander's June 30 letter emphatically argues that Karen Klein, the bus monitor, failed to stand up to bullies by instead sitting in her seat and crying. Ms. Hollander further suggests that schools "should hire people who can do the job."
How easy it is to write words of criticism from the safety of our homes! How easy it is to reprimand someone for choosing silence over action!
In June 1991, I sat in a classroom of eighth graders -- students with whom I had spent an entire year and felt comfortable. With these young men and women, I had explored writing and literature; I had especially emphasized the lessons of "To Kill a Mockingbird," the core novel that taught people to understand not to judge others and to refrain from hurting the innocent.
Then, on this final day of grade eight, my students gathered around my desk to give me a beautifully wrapped present. It contained a porcelain beaver "because the two front teeth remind us of you," they laughed. The students I had grown to like and trust had disintegrated into bullies -- and, like Karen Klein, I cried and stayed silent.
I cried because I was hurt, and I did not speak because I was afraid. Bullies thrive on making others vulnerable; they use fear as a weapon. Yes, I wish I had spoken, as I am sure Ms. Klein does. I wish I had turned the experience into a lesson, but I lacked the courage to do so because bullies strip us victims of our courage.
In an ideal world, Ms. Hollander, we would all stand up to bullies. We would, in your words, channel our inner "Taxi Driver" and speak out. The world, however, is not ideal. Instead of condemning Karen Klein, I reach out to her and say, "I understand." As for the bullies, I fear they will always find a way to survive and thrive.
RONNA L. EDELSTEIN
First Published July 7, 2012 12:00 am