It’s a horrible scene: a 68-year-old bus monitor brutally mocked and driven to tears by a group of middle-school boys. Luckily, the Internet has come to the rescue.
After a video of the incident went viral, well-wishers donated over $155,000 so that the beleaguered victim, Karen Klein, could take her dream vacation.
The Lord of the Flies–style scenario unfolded on a seemingly average day in Greece, N.Y., where Klein has worked for 20 years as a school-bus driver and for three years as a bus monitor making sure students behave on the way to school. The kids in the video had caused trouble before, Klein said, but never something as bad as this.
Over the course of 10 minutes, the four boys called her poor, ugly and fat. At one point, she tells them, “Unless you have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This just spurred them on, however, with one responding, “Shut the f— up.” The student then asks why there is water on Klein’s face and if she is “sweating.” She tells him, “No, I’m crying.” This was not the worst of it.
The boys, undeterred, continued their abuse. “You’re so ugly, your kids should kill themselves,” says one. Klein told a local television reporter that her son did in fact commit suicide 10 years ago. Another one of the teens later remarks, “If I stabbed you in the stomach, my knife would f—ing go through like butter, because it’s all f—ing lard.”
Klein, who is a grandmother of eight and makes around $15,000 a year, told Matt Lauer on the Today show on Thursday: “It made me feel really terrible, but I will get over it. I’ve gotten over everything else.”
Klein did not report the incident, but school officials learned of the shocking video and notified police. Police and school district officials are now investigating the episode, which is thought to have been captured on the cell phone of one of the students involved. “While we cannot comment on specific student discipline,” a Greece School District official told MSNBC.com, “we can say that students found to be involved will face strong disciplinary actions.”
In the meantime, donors have been flocking to fundraising site Indiegogo.com to donate money to the “Let’s Give Karen — The bus monitor – H Klein A Vacation” campaign. The effort was started by a reddit.com member called Max Sidorov, a Ukrainian based in Toronto. So far, nearly 8,000 donors have given more than $173,000 to Klein.
Klein told Lauer that the generosity of strangers had warmed her heart. ”I’ve got these nice letters, e-mails, Facebook messages,” Klein said. “It’s like, wow, there’s a whole world out there that I didn’t know. It’s really awesome.”
On his campaign Web page today, Sidorov wrote, “This is absolutely stunning … give yourselves a huge round of applause!!” When the sum hit almost $150,000, he posted a celebratory message: “I think it is safe to say that Karen can RETIRE!!!”
WATCH: YouTube Bullying Confessions