x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Show some respect

Children can be terribly cruel, as a YouTube video from a school bus has just reminded us.

We didn't need YouTube to tell us that boys can be cruel. However, the video that surfaced online late last week of the American school bus monitor Karen Klein being harassed is a stark reminder of how far verbal abuse can go and how hurtful it can be - particularly when it's a group of 13-year-olds ganging up on a 68-year-old grandmother.

In the video, Mrs Klein, of Rochester, New York, is seen sitting, mostly stoically, while the boys throw a stream of invective in her direction. Many of the comments are about her weight, but she is also told she is so ugly her children should kill themselves. It is unclear whether the child knew that, 10 years ago, Mrs Klein's son committed suicide. When a boy asks why her face is wet, she replies, heartbreakingly: "I'm crying."

People haven't just opened their hearts to Mrs Klein, they've opened their wallets. More than $630,000 (Dh2.3 million) has been pledged to a website initially set up with a modest target of $5,000 to send her on a holiday. She will probably retire, and we wish her peace and happiness.

But how to deal with Mrs Klein's tormentors? The death threats received by some of them are not the answer; they are an abhorrent variation of the bullying behaviour we should all be trying to stamp out. Instead, parents, teachers and communities everywhere must work to ensure that their children understand that words can in fact hurt.