A week after a school bus monitor from upstate New York was brought to tears by the vicious bullying of a group of seventh-graders caught on video, she has nearly been moved to weep again. But this time it’s for a different reason: the generosity of strangers across the country.
As of Monday morning, more than $645,000 had been raised in less than a week for Karen Klein, a 68-year-old bus monitor from Greece, N.Y. In an expletive-filled, 10-minute clip titled “Making the Bus Monitor Cry,’’ that has been viewed nearly seven million times, Klein can be seen enduring the cruel taunts of four 13-year-olds until she breaks down.Video: Bullied bus monitor: Teasing ‘made me feel terrible’ (on this page)
The abuse Klein underwent inspired a stranger from Toronto to start up a collection on the website Indiegogo.com to give a vacation to Klein, who makes $15,506 a year at her position. With 26 days left to still donate, Klein might be able to buy her own island by the time the fundraising stops.
“I keep thinking, ‘What have I done?’ ’’ Klein said on TODAY Monday. “I don’t almost feel like I deserve it. What I am glad about is the fact that it does come out, and everyone knows what goes on. Not all the time, not all the kids, but it does happen.’’Video: Bus monitor: ‘I want kids to stop bullying’ (on this page)
Why the bullying?
Klein has received short written apologies from two of the boys, a long apology letter from one of the boys’ mothers, and an in-person apology from one of the boys’ fathers. Klein hopes to speak to the boys face-to-face at some point.
“Actually I would like to, eventually, not right away, ask them why they did it,’’ she told Ann Curry. “(I want) an apology and an explanation.’’School bus bullying: Why middle school kids can be mean
While Klein is flattered by all of the positive attention she has received, she hopes the end result is ensuring that others do not have to go through what she endured. She doesn’t want the boys expelled, but has said she would like them banned from riding the bus for a year and ineligible to participate in team sports.
“I want kids to stop bullying,’’ she said. “Maybe they could start up a class in school to teach these kids not to do stuff like that.’’
In addition to all the money raised on her behalf, Klein has also been inundated with letters, e-mails and Facebook messages of support from across the world. There also was a rally in her hometown of Greece over the weekend.
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“I’ve gotten so many notes from people who’ve been bullied, who’ve been very hurt,’’ she said. “My heart goes out to these people, and I would like to contact every one of them and tell them how sorry I am.’’
‘Such nice people’
While she said she had been taunted by kids on the bus at other times in the past, the bullying she endured in the viral clip was the worst of the worst. It was so bad that her daughter, Michelle Hawkins, could not watch the entire clip, turning it off after one of the boys grabbed her mother’s ear.
“As soon as he touched her, it was just over,’’ Hawkins told Ann Curry. “I had to turn it off. I can’t believe somebody would do that to my mother.’’Video: Dad confronts daughter’s bullies on school bus
Since school is out for the summer, the boys’ punishment is currently being determined by school administrators and will be applied in the fall. Klein is not pressing any charges, and she said it’s possible she may continue at her job. With $645,000 and counting in donations to her, there certainly is the option of retiring.
“Are you serious?’’’ Klein said when asked what she would do with the money. “What would anybody do with that much money? I would like to invest some.”Video: Students apologize to bullied bus monitor (on this page)
Klein, who is a grandmother of eight, also said she would give some of the money to charity and help her children financially.
“They need cars, they need, they need, they need — it never ends,’’ she said jokingly.Video: Support, money pours in for bullying victim (on this page)
Klein and her daughter were also able to thank the people at Indiegogo.com and the man from Toronto who started the fund-raising drive, whom they will meet in person on Rochester on Wednesday.
“They’re such nice people and what they’ve done, I hope they’re making some money for doing it,’’ Klein said.
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