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Video: Bus monitor: ‘I want kids to stop bullying’

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    lipton: bullied by the middle schoolers she was watching all caught on camera. this morning the donations to her vacation fund has topped $640,000. we're going to talk to her and her daughter in a moment. but first a look back at what she had to endure.

    >> it was almost too cruel to believe. videos of karen klein , a 68-year-old bus monitor from new york being taunted mercilessly by a group of 13 years old. they ridiculed her for her weight. physically poked her and even suggested her family had killed themselves because of her.

    >> you don't have a family because they all killed themselves. they don't want to be near you.

    >> it's unclear if the boys knew karen had a son that committed suicide years ago. after driving klein to tears, they were still relentless. america was horrified and so were we.

    >> i'll tell you what i think about them now. i think they are narrow minded monsters to be perfectly honest with you and i think their parents should be ashamed of them.

    >> two of the students have since sent klein letters of apology.

    >> i cannot believe i did that. i'm sorry for being so mean and i will never treat anyone this way again.

    >> however, klein says she is reticent to believe they are heartfelt.

    >> not really. i think they could be better than what they did.

    >> district administrators plan to pursue disciplinary actions against all four students who taunted klein but she says she does not want them to face criminal charges. over the weekend there was a hometown rally to support the grandmother of eight.

    >> tonight we'll celebrate a woman of courage, one who internalized mistreatment and didn't complain.

    >> when we last spoke to klein a fund-raiser had just been started to send her on vacation.

    >> i am amazed. it's like, wow, there's a whole world out there that i didn't know.

    >> what she couldn't have known then, that those donations would grow to more than $600,000. but even more has been this teachable moment. karen klein is now joining us for an exclusive interview along with her daughter. what a ride this has been, an intense period over the last 24 hours , a few days, actually, for you. we just checked and it's now up to $644,999 donated in support of you after all that's happened. what's your reaction.

    >> i keep thinking, what have i done, you know. i don't almost feel like i deserve it, because i just -- what i am glad about is the fact that it has come out and everyone knows what goes on. not all the time, not all the kids. but it does happen. i've gotten so many notes from people who have been bullied, who have been very hurt, you know. my heart goes out to these people. i would like to take every one of them and tell them how sorry i am.

    >> how long did it go on for you? how long of a period?

    >> well, never that bad. i mean, there would be occasionally -- kids are only on the bus for like 15 minutes tops. and sometimes they would be preoccupied with their phones. and then all of a sudden they turned to me, and it was only just a little while ago.

    >> we know you have since we last talked to you here on "today," you've received written apologies from two of the boys and from one of the mothers and an in person apology from one of the boy's fathers rainfall right.

    >> do you accept these apologies or do you want more?

    >> i would like to eventually ask them why they did it.

    >> you want an explanation.

    >> an apology and an explanation.

    >> michelle, when you saw this video, what was the worst moment for you?

    >> i actually did not watch the whole video. when the boy touched her ear, that was -- as soon as he touched her, it was just over. i had to turn it off. i can't believe somebody would do that to my mother.

    >> so what do you want besides having them explain why this happened? what do you want that would maybe protect other people, that would stop this kind of behavior that you say has caused other people to talk about their own bullies. what do you want done?

    >> i want kids to stop bullying. maybe they can start up a new class in school to teach these kids not to do stuff like that. like i say, they are not all bad kids. i thought maybe i would go back, because they aren't all bad. i enjoy my job.

    >> you're thinking when school starts again in the fall, you would go back to becoming a school bus monitor.

    >> maybe.

    >> let's talk about this huge amount of money. by the way, the window for donating has not closed yet. people can still donate. what will you do with that money?

    >> are you serious? what would anybody do with that money. i'd like to invest. donate.

    >> charity.

    >> take care of my kids, my daughter and other daughter. new car. they need, they need, they need. it never ends.

    >> i think the man in toronto who started this fund-raiser.

    >> max.

    >> you know his name. you've not met him.

    >> we talked to him this morning on the radio.

    >> what did you tell him?

    >> we got to say hi to him. mom said thank you. we were only on for maybe three, four minutes. yeah, but we've been talking to him, though.

    >> isn't he coming wednesday?

    >> yes.

    >> he's coming to rochester wednesday.

    >> so you're going to meet him in person and thank him in person.

    >> yeah.

    >> isn't it nice?

    >> i talked to him on the phone yesterday i think it was. nice people, what they have done. i don't know how they go about this. i hope they are making some money for doing it.

    >> i'm sure they are at least getting a feeling of having done something good for someone who endured something so terrible. karen klein , thank you so much for being here this morning. also, michelle, thank you for being here. good luck to you. good to see how you're doing as

By
TODAY contributor
updated 6/25/2012 9:44:55 AM ET 2012-06-25T13:44:55

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.

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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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