By The Associated Press
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — An upstate New York bus monitor taunted and verbally abused by middle school students said Thursday that she hopes their parents will view the viral video of the attack and talk to their children about being “a little more respectful.”
The incident was captured in a 10-minute cellphone video recorded by one of the students and posted to YouTube. It shows 68-year-old Karen Klein trying her best to ignore the stream of profanity, insults and outright threats directed at her. At one point in the video, she breaks down in tears.
By early Wednesday, the video had gone viral, and by Thursday morning, it had been viewed more than 1.5 million times on YouTube.
Klein told NBC’s “Today” show Thursday that it took “a lot of willpower” not to respond to Monday’s jeers from at least four seventh- and eighth-grade boys riding the bus operated by the Greece Central School District, a suburban Rochester district that’s the ninth largest in the state.
“I’m not usually that calm. Just ask my kids,” Klein said during the interview. “I’m sure they don’t act that way at home, but you never know what they’re going to do when they’re out of the house.”
Outrage over Klein’s treatment on the bus led to an outpouring of support. The international crowd funding site Indiegogo.com had raised more than $124,000 by Thursday to send the grandmother of eight on a vacation.
“I’m so amazed,” she said.
“I’ve got these nice letters, emails, Facebook messages,” Klein said. “It’s like, wow, there’s a whole world out there that I didn’t know. It’s really awesome.”
The support for Klein follows a recent surge in awareness of bullying that has brought the issue from the classroom to the stage and screen to the White House.
In September, after 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer of suburban Buffalo killed himself after complaining about being bullied about his sexuality, pop singer Lady Gaga decried the loss of another life to bullying, tweeting to millions of followers that she’d take her concerns to President Barack Obama.
This year, the White House held a conference on bullying prevention, estimating that it affects 13 million students, or about a third of those attending school. Obama said he hoped to “dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not.”
In April, the documentary film “Bully” examined the problem by following five kids over the course of a school year.
In Klein’s case, she didn’t report the bullying, but school officials notified Town of Greece police when they learned of it. Police have questioned the students involved, but none have been charged.
The school district activated its bullying and violence prevention response team to investigate the incident.
At least two other videos showing Klein being taunted by students aboard a bus are known to have been posted online.
“We have discovered other similar videos on YouTube and are working to identify all of the students involved,” according to a statement posted on the district’s website.