Karen Klein is a 68 year old bus monitor from Greece in upstate New York who has risen to national attention following the latest bullying scandal captured on a cell phone camera. This time Klein was the victim of a lengthy and unrelenting stream of abuse and insults from middle school children traveling on her bus.
One comment from a boy aboard the bus was especially painful, she said. He told her that she does not have family because “they all killed themselves because they didn’t want to be near you.”
Klein’s eldest son took his own life 10 years ago.
Greece Police Captain Steve Chatterton said that the outpouring of public sympathy has been immense with his department receiving many national and international emails urging them to prosecute the children involved. That decision however is not his, but Klein’s, and so far she has declined to press criminal charges. Chatterton does note that the investigation is ongoing and she may choose to press charges at a later date. Until then his hands are somewhat tied.
Klein doesn’t wish to prosecute as she doesn’t believe the kids are really bad, but were merely carried away by peer pressure and rather than face family court should receive some other form of punishment such as being banned from the bus or doing some community service.
Indiegogo’s Max Sidorov was a bullying victim and he launched a campaign to raise enough money to remove Klein from the hostile environment; a campaign which has gathered more than $420,000.
“I had no idea I was going to raise anywhere near this amount. I thought maybe a few thousand,” Sidorov said from Toronto. “Maybe to send her somewhere nice. But this is enough for her to retire.”
Chatterton noted that the four students involved in the video, all seventh-graders, have held their hands up to their action and admitted culpability, voluntarily talking to police without a lawyer.
“As one father put it, his son is sitting back, waiting for his punishment,” Chatterton said. “No one has denied accountability and they’ve taken responsibility for their actions.”
Two of the boys involved have expressed contrition to CNN, saying they were disgusted by their own behaviour and would have been mad if it had been inflicted on a family member.
“If your friend says to bully somebody, please don’t do it,” said the father of Luis, another of the seventh-graders. ” We apologize to Ms. Klein. We’re deeply sorry.”
Of additional good news for anti-bullying campaigners is that the case has stimulated some action researching similar incidents on YouTube. With the recent film ‘Bully’, public awareness of the problem has never been higher. The latest incident shows the natural progression of such behavior. It isn’t simply an internal school problem where kids with developing identities are picking on each other; if such behavior goes unchecked they can turn this hostility on other members of the public and create a very real public threat.