I wasn't going to touch this one. It has been said that I tend to see things as black or white, right or wrong, and that my Old School approach to New School issues and transgressions is not only outdated but out of place.
This was brought home to me recently when I wrote about a small Rat Pack of local kids who took on some very nice local people in the most vile of fashions, openly defying and insulting people decades their senior and in a patois more suited to the ghetto than for suburban Lamorinda.
I happened to witness one instance and it struck home, as things I see that I find wrong tend to do. I mentioned that a good home-style woodshed whupping would be justifiable punishment for these kids and thought others would feel the same.
Man, was I wrong.
Not the first time. I've been wrong before. But I misjudged the mindset of local parents who challenged my observations and suggested remedy for a roaming wolfpack of unsupervised kids dropping F-bombs like B-52 strikes and apparently willing to call octogenarians the "rhymes with riches" word.
That bothered me, too, and I'll confess it turned and turned in my head until the video of the four kids verbally attacking their bus monitor in upstate New York surfaced -- courtesy of the kids themselves. Because not only were these 13-year-olds willing to taunt an elder with threats of sexual assault, a knifing, and more -- they were happy to film themselves doing it.
Now, yes, the victim in this received some -- in my mind, at least -- very weak apologies from at least one parent of the kids involved and a lot of money from well-meaning people hoping to send her on a well-deserved vacation away from kids like the ones on that bus that day, but what did the episode teach us?
Even though kids film everything today I would be willing to bet this is only the tip of a very scary iceberg. And while I know kids tend to do things they wouldn't normally do when with they get together with their friends, this sort of behavior seems to go way beyond the "acting up" description. So, when I witnessed firsthand kids from our "nice" neighborhood behaving like street thugs, it shook me.
It was good to see that CNN's package on the bus monitor story included feedback from kids the age of the offenders, asking how such a thing could have happened and mentioning suitable punishment for their peers. The kids seemed even more offended than the victim, as if they had been betrayed -- and perhaps so.
For the record the kids in New York were suspended for a year and were sent to alternative schools. An apology from the parent of one of the boys involved seemed heartfelt, though some watching the case suggested it was motivated by a desire to escape an itself abusive limelight focused on his family after the case came to light.
The question I am left with is whether or not this sort of behavior, be it on a bus in upstate New York or a street in Lamorinda, is an example of a newfound hardening of the hearts of our young. Where does a middle schooler get the sort of verbal ammunition they need to terrorize an adult in this way? And what, if anything, do you feel should be done about it?
I know what I'd do, but I'm keeping that to myself for now.