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Bullying on bus – Not a gladiator sport

April 29, 2010

The lead-up has been coming for days.  Our local CBS affiliate, KIRO-TV has been running a teaser for a new segment they are airing this evening at 11pm. In it, there’s horrible footage of young kids getting into a horrendous fight at the back of the school bus — from what we see (and from what we are teased in the promo) the school bus driver does nothing.

While naturally the actual segment isn’t available to be seen on KIRO’s website, there are two “uncut” versions of the video you can see.  Both are pretty awful. I suggest you take a look at them — people need to know what’s going on in our schools.

Here’s one version http://www.kirotv.com/video/23282649/index.html

You can also find the second on KIRO’s website.  In it, you hear profanity, you hear screams, you see young pre-teen kids attacking each other. In the background, the bus driver’s voice is heard saying something to the effect of, “why won’t you all sit down?”  I don’t know how it turns out…I couldn’t watch that long.

It’s nothing short of awful.  I don’t know in which school district this took place (but I’m sure we’ll know by tonight!); the label on the video says “RSD 70” which I assume is the bus number.  “RSD” could be Ridgeview, could be Richland, could be Rainier…I don’t know.

What I DO know is that KIRO is turning this into a circus. This comes under the category of “more blood.”  Let’s tease this for two days and get people really salivating for the details.  Is it a wonder that May Sweeps are starting?  Even the titles that come with the teaser are sensationalistic and meant for maximum shock factor.  It’d be really effective…if it wasn’t a real story.

This is a tragedy and one that takes place constantly across the country. It’s not a sport, it’s not an “incident” to be used in a ratings game.  I understand from my sources that KIRO has an exclusive on the video, but rather than do what the NEWS is supposed to do — inform and educate — this is being used as ratings bait.

I did an interview Tuesday evening on WBZ (Boston) to discuss Phoebe Prince.  The host, Dan Rea asked me about how prevalent student violence was and I cited him some of the stats out of the recent NCES report on Crime and Student Safety (when you think about this, isn’t this report rather mis-named?). I shared with him the year from June 2008-2009, there were 43 reported school-associated violent deaths, and 21 homicides and 5 suicides on school property. The youngest victim was 5.  Phoebe Prince is a major story, but how many other kids don’t make national news?

How about this young man, in New Mexico? He’s 7 and is dealing with a fractured skull from a recent school bus fight? There are roughly 56 million students in schools across this country, and if you do the math, this means that 14 million of them are going to be impacted by some form of school-based violence befor they reach high school.

And get this — in the case of the New Mexico incident, here’s what they have to say:

The Las Cruces district instituted an anti-bullying curriculum two years ago. The policy includes name-calling, pushing and similar behavior as bullying and details possible punishment, ranging from a one-day in-school suspension to a year’s suspension from class.

That’s just great.  How’s that “curriculum” working?  Not too well. This is the response we get all across the country: “we already have an anti-bullying curriculum.”  Implication: even if it isn’t working, because we have one, we don’t need anything else.

Folks, I don’t know…perhaps we are too far gone.  If we consider a serious bullying on the bus incident as something to be teased, drooled over, anticipating for the 11pm segment so we can finally get all the juicy details, then perhaps it is the adults who have the bigger problem.

I would have preferred that KIRO air the segment when it found out, suggested alternatives, used it as an opportunity for awareness, and not make this a gem for the May Sweeps.

Bullying is not a spectator sport, but we continue to treat it as such.  Bad news sells, and the media would like to focus more on the hype and hysteria than use it as a way to call for change and highlight solutions so that we don’t get the feeling our schools are doomed.

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