“Oh yes, I would like to talk to them!” says Karen Klein (fn.1) She is the 68-year-old school bus monitor from Rochester, New York who four middle school boys mercilessly ridiculed, swore at, and even poked, recently.

Over 8 million people have viewed the You Tube(fn.2) of the incident tapped by a boy who said he wanted to send in to the Tosh.0 program (fn.3). A Canadian man saw the video and started an online collection for donations to send Klein on a vacation. He hoped $5000 could be raised (fn.4). So far over $650,000 has been donated along with a trip for 9 (Klein has 8 grandchildren) to Disneyland from Southwest Airlines and Disneyland (fn.5).

After the video went viral on the Internet, the boys and their families received death threats. Klein’s daughter wisely asked, and pointed out that, “We would like people to stop harassing the family and the kids. That’s another form of bullying” (fn.6).

Klein said she did not want the boys criminally prosecuted (fn.7) and instead hoped that the event would, “Teach them a life lesson” (fn.8).

The boys have been suspended from their regular school and cannot ride the bus for a year. Klein is reportedly pleased with the punishment. All four boys have apologized to her and have taken responsibility for their bad behavior.

Klein, her family, the boys and their families would benefit from restorative justice.

Restorative justice views crime and wrongdoing as something that creates wounds, which need healing. A private and respectful restorative meeting where each person is treated with dignity, even the boys who behaved so poorly, would allow everyone to express their feelings, discuss the incident, and what possibly could be done to repair the harm.

Restorative justice recognizes there is no going back and instead looks to what might be done now to repair harm and heal pain. Restorative justice applies public health principals in dealing with wrongdoing. Restorative justice asks what people need to best deal with the effects of the crime, instead of deciding who should be blamed and how they should be punished.

“I want to ask them why they did it,” says Klein. She should be given this opportunity.

Some people believe it should not be up to Klein if the boys are prosecuted. A person who responded to the Washington Post article cited in footnote 7 said, “The decision to press charges or not should be out of the victim’s hands, since these degenerates are a public menace.”

Taking the power away from people harmed by wrongdoing and putting it solely in the hands of government alone will not keep our communities safer in these kinds of cases. The Rochester police department thankfully understands this, and sees Klein as having the right to press charges or not.

Unless, as Klein aptly points out, these four boys “learn a lesson” it is unlikely they will change their behavior in the future. Our justice system should work to rehabilitate people, especially youth. Also people who hurt people outside of prison can hurt people in prison. It is not acceptable for prison guards and other incarcerated people to be harmed by wrongdoing in prisons. We need rehabilitation even for people sentenced to prison for life.

Wrongdoing and conflict can make communities safer when people like Klein, the boys who hurt her, and all their families, are involved in determining what is needed for them to heal.

Restorative justice for these four boys is a good way for them to “learn a life lesson,” to get Klein the answers to the questions she has, and it is something that can help keep our communities safer now and in the future.
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1 http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-06-30/bus-monitor-bullying-punishment/55948658/1
2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l93wAqnPQwk&feature=player_embedded
3 http://toshcommunity.comedycentral.com/-/videocategories and
4 http://www.indiegogo.com/loveforkarenhklein
5 http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/students-bullied-bus-monitor-karen-klein-suspended-year-article-1.1105212
6 http://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/22/us/new-york-bus-monitor/index.html
7 http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/bullied-ny-bus-monitor-wont-press-charges/2012/06/21/gJQAf20EtV_video.html