The headline read, “Tearful tot, mom tossed off the bus.” A 23 year mother said she was humiliated when a city bus driver “kicked” her off the bus because her son was crying, leaving her and her sick children an hour-long walk home on a cold winter morning. “It was horrible. Having to walk home, being embarrassed by all those people. I was trying my hardest to get my son to stop crying.”
In January, 2012, a front page story in our local newspaper the Windsor Star told the disturbing story of Tori Tracey, a mother with two sick children – a two-year old son and a four-year old daughter – on a Transit Windsor bus, returning home from a doctor’s appointment. Her son was crying and she tried to calm him, but her efforts were not enough for the bus driver. He stopped the bus and the mother reports that, “He made a complete scene on the bus, saying I needed to calm down my son or we needed to remove ourselves off the bus and he couldn’t drive like this.” Then the bus driver got off the bus for a short time, and when he returned he ordered them to get off. None of the other passengers said a word. The mother began the long walk home in the cold with room for only one child in the stroller. She said she gave her jacket to her daughter and walked most of the way home wearing only a sweater.
The mother called Transit Windsor to complain. A day and a half later, a representative called to apologize. Later in the week an employee came to her house and dropped off 20 bus tickets.
There are many lessons to learn from this story and many questions: Why did the bus driver treat a mother with 2 sick children like this? What did he think the mother should do – that she wasn’t already doing – to stop her sick boy from crying? Why didn’t he show empathy? Why didn’t the other passengers say or do something to help?
For Tori Tracey and her young children this was a horrible event. They were bullied by the bus driver and no one stood up for them. Bullying is everywhere – even on city buses – and bullying is wrong. People get hurt and it is up to everyone in the community to stop it.
… bullying is an act of aggression where there is a discrepancy of power between the bully and the victim.
To clarify, bullying is an act of aggression where there is a discrepancy of power between the bully and the victim. The bus driver was the bully who misused his status and power to treat this family as inferior and undeserving of respect. Reading this story, many of us feel outrage that he showed no empathy or compassion for this mother and her two small, sick children. He seemed to blame the mother for his stress, because she couldn’t stop her sick two-year old son from crying. (I can almost hear someone saying, “Why can’t that mother control her child?” Mothers tend to get blamed when their children are sick and crying.) He forced this family, with few resources, out into the street. (They had a stroller with room for only one child and didn’t even have the warm clothing needed to walk for an hour in the cold.) This is man’s inhumanity to man. Tori Tracey and her children deserved better.
What part did the witnesses play? Bullies do not bully without support.
By their silence the passengers became the bystanders, giving tacit consent to how the bus driver treated this family.
Their fellow passengers needed to stand up, not stand by. By their silence the passengers became the bystanders, giving tacit consent to how the bus driver treated this family. Research on this kind of behaviour suggests that they did not intervene because of fear, or that they believed that others would act. It is possible – and likely – that they blamed the mother, too. Things could have played out much differently if even one of the passengers had stood up to say, “Stop. You can’t treat another human being this way. It is wrong.” Or alternatively, they could have offered support to the mother and children – the support that they deserved. When bystanders – the witnesses in this case – intervene, in 57% of cases bullying stops within 10 seconds (Peplar & Craig 1999).
By not intervening, the bystanders failed this family. Is this the kind of society we want to live in – where apathy and fear allow others to be hurt? Is this the society we want for our children, who are so vulnerable?
This is how children learn to be bullies. They learn by the way they are treated by the bigger, more powerful people in their lives.
I fear that this incident could have a lasting effect on the children. What happened was a hurtful and aggressive act that could have lasting consequences for these children. Ithink that this is how children learn to be bullies. They learn by the way they are treated by the bigger, more powerful people in their lives.