Karen Klein has never watched the full 10-minute YouTube video that shows her being viciously bullied by a group of seventh-graders during her job as a bus monitor in upstate New York.
"I didn't see the whole thing,'' Klein, who watched portions of the video on TODAY, told David Gregory Thursday. "I didn't want to. I couldn't.''
The video, filmed on the cell phone of a student on the bus, has been viewed 8.5 million times since it was posted on June 19. It shows Klein facing profanity-laced taunts from a group of students and one went as far as saying Klein’s kids should kill themselves. Klein’s son committed suicide 10 years ago. As a result, more than 30,000 people across 84 countries donated $700,000 in donations to Klein on an online fund-raising site.
Klein, 68, reacted to critics who have questioned why she, as the adult, did not immediately take the students to task. She says she still does not know why she did not act.
"I thought about that,'' Klein said about reporting the kids. "I didn't do it. I'm glad I didn't, now that this has happened. Now maybe we can get this bullying thing known. I hope that nobody else has to go through anything like that.’’
School authorities acted swiftly after the video was posted, issuing year-long suspensions to the boys involved.
“We expect victims to report all the time, and the fact is, so often they don’t because they’re afraid,” psychologist Jennifer Hartstein told NBC News. "She's the adult in the situation, would people believe her? Or they might really blame her for not taking into her own hands and doing something about it.''
The students, now in eighth grade, have been enrolled in the district’s reengagement center. They have been ordered to do 50 hours of community service in a nursing home and are not allowed to participate in any sports for the school, according to Klein. Either the boys or their parents have all written letters of apology to her.
“I’d like [parents] to tell the kids that it’s not to be done, it’s not right, [and] how would you like it if somebody did it to you?’’ she said. “I’m afraid that some of the kids have been bullied and that’s why they did what they did [on the bus].”
A fundraising page set up by 25-year-old Canadian Max Sidorov on the website Indiegogo in the aftermath of her story went way beyond the initial goal of giving Klein a vacation. The grandmother of eight has used $100,000 of the donations as seed money to form the Karen Klein Foundation.
Starting this weekend, the foundation's anti-bullying initiative kicks off with a four-city bus tour beginning in Myrtle Beach, S.C., as part of National Bullying Prevention Month. Klein will be visiting youth organizations and grade schools with musical acts and other speakers delivering anti-bullying messages. She’s also partnered with Miss Teen USA 2012, Logan West, and West’s "Bully Proof" initiative.
Klein has retired from her bus monitor position after having previously been a bus driver for 20 years. She has put the incident behind her and is now focused on helping others.
“If this is doing good, then I don’t need to be sad about it,’’ she told NBC News.
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