Update: Bus Monitor’s Tormenters Punished

When Karen Klein, her two daughters and six grandchildren return from their all-expense-paid trip to Disneyland (thanks to Southwest Airlines), she may have a fresh perspective on the horrible bullying she endured. What likely will not change is her belief most students are good people.

The Greece, New York, bus monitor was leading a quiet life until the incident thrust her into the limelight. With four middle-school students cruelly mocking her and one of them recording the abuse for YouTube, she fought back with her only weapons: integrity and tears.

Max Sidorov from Toronto saw the video. He had experienced bullying himself when he was younger. He launched an Indiegogo fundraising effort to send Klein on a vacation. So many people contributed to the fund the total had topped $677,000 at the time of this writing. Contributors have been leaving sympathetic notes along with their donations.

While Klein was receiving this outpouring of generosity, the boys and their families were enduring death threats, hate mail and ugly phone calls. Some comments on Care2 expressed some of the same “eye for an eye” sentiment.

The Greece Central School District issued a press statement saying the students had been suspended from school and from regular bus transportation for a year. During that time they will attend an alternative program where they will receive formal instruction “related to conduct and behavior.” Parents will be involved in the program.

The students will complete 50 hours of community service with senior citizens and a formal anti-bullying program. If they do well during their first 30 weeks at the Reengagement Center, they can apply for readmission to middle school.

Next: The Aftermath

The incident has shaken the community of Greece. No community likes to think of itself as a place where a kindly grandmother would be subjected to cruel taunting. They held a rally in her support.

One blogger’s reaction pointed out the constant abuse meted out to people who carry a lot of extra weight. Writing for Daily Kos, gravitas13 points out:

The nation seems shocked at the treatment bus monitor Karen Klein received by a bunch of unruly school kids.  But why are we so shocked at these kids behavior when our society does the same thing, day in and day out.  Is our concern just big fat hypocrisy?

What rock can we crawl under to avoid fat bashing?  Fat people are lampooned in sitcoms, villainized on the big screen, stereotyped on talk shows.  Even if we turn off our t.v. sets, who can go to the supermarket without noticing those in your face tabloids about best and worst beach bodies?

As for Karen Klein, she is looking forward to returning to her quiet life as a grandmother – and perhaps even a bus monitor. She drove buses for 20 years until failing hearing pushed her out of the front seat and into the back. She likes kids and has no interest in pressing charges against her young tormenters. She agrees with their punishment but not their harassment.

Klein’s life will be financially easier. She will be able to do more things for her children and grandchildren. She will probably donate to two causes close to her heart – autism and Down’s Syndrome – because two of her grandchildren are affected.

As a new celebrity, Klein has been showered with attention everywhere she goes. She has met Max Sidorov. She has been sent on a trip to Boston. She has given dozens of interviews and been showered with flowers.

When the attention dies down, questions will remain. In the Toronto Star, Niamh Scallan expressed a sentiment on a lot of people’s minds:

Klein says she’s ready to forgive. But even as the world’s generosity and support continue to shatter expectations, last week’s trauma — an event that redefined cruelty in the minds of many — will be hard to forget.

It’s a conflicting feeling that will undoubtedly linger in this shaken community even after the news trucks pull away from Klein’s street and the limelight moves elsewhere.

Related Care2 Stories

Bus Monitor Cruelly Bullied by Middle-School Students

Ontario Passes Anti-Bullying Bill

The Best Anti-Gay Bulling Video Ever?

Behind the Anti-Obesity Veil: Fat Bashing as ‘Science’

A Horrible Bullying Story with a Happy Ending


Photo credits: Thinkstock

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Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

Poor lady. Kids suck sometimes. Where are their parents?

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin3 years ago

I voted NO because i think the response are way to nice to the perps!

Juliet Defarge
judith sanders3 years ago

I heard she was going to give much of that money to family members caring for children with Autism and Down Syndrome.

Glad to hear the parents have to have some training too, but I think the boys need to go live for a year with relatives in a school district that is multi-ethnic, very tolerant, and has strict policies about bullying.

Dianne D.
Dianne D.3 years ago

Bullying should not be tolerated - even a little bit. I heard one father of one of these boys suspended say that he thought the public exposure was punishment enough for his son. With parents like this, no wonder the kids did what they did. We need to restrict some people from having kids - and probably animals.

Antonia Salaz-Siania
Antonia S.3 years ago

From what I have read it seems that some people are jealous that others donated to that woman, because nobody ever helped them when something happened to them. Get over it seriously. And as for those kids being kids, that is a crock of sh#$!! If kids are taught not to disrespect their elders that carries through even their teenage years. I admit I was not an innocent teen, but never would have I talked to and older person that way, and I would have knocked the crap out of any other kid I seen doing it!! I was brought up with respect though, and I still feel that way. Anyone who disrespects and elderly person for just sitting there needs their A@# whooped, and the parents do need to be taught something. Why do you think young people are so crappy anymore, because of their parents!!! It starts at home it is just no one wants to take responsibility for their children anymore! If you can't take responsibility for your kids then you shouldn't have had them in the first place!!!!

Elsa G.
Else G.3 years ago

Char I guess you didn't read the second page. She is donating some of the money to charity.
As for fighting back, what was she supposed to do. Personally I would have loved to slap them all up side their head but then the parents of these (little darling) would have me in court so fast it would make my head spen. If she had even said anything back to them they would probably have gone running to mummy and daddy saying that the mean old lady had talked back to them and sued her for harassing their sweet little darings.
Char what would you have done????

Jessica L.

Anyone wondering what their parents are like, I can assure you they do not know their kids like the likes of me does. Kids show the angelic side to their folks and their dark side to the like of me. I know, that’s been my life for nearly 30 years, since I started in school. Kids do that. It might not be right, but they do. And anyone thinking these kids are special, need to open their eyes.
And those parents who go on and say that they haven’t raised their kids to be like that, need to get a reality check. Your kids are gonna do whatever the bleep they want the moment you turn your back on them. You don’t know them, you only know PARTS of them.

And quite frankly, an adult woman who cries when she’s called fat and ugly shouldn’t be bus monitor. If that’s all it takes, she isn’t cut out for the job. Let’s face it, she has picked a job where verbal abuse is quite likely, and if that’s all it takes for her to cry, then she has lived an very sheltered life. When they actually try to follow you or pull a knife, that’s when it’s time to get frightened. Words mean very little, especially said the way these youngsters are saying it.

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch3 years ago

It's a start, but we must monitor the kid's behavior to make sure they, and others, stop the bullying.

Chuck D.
Chuck D.3 years ago

Char, I can think of far worse uses for this money than brightening the day of an elderly woman who was subject to undeserved torment by those thoughtless brats...oh, and she didn't "choose to be a victim", but was instead victimized by those kids.

Yes, there are plenty of people who endure bullying and aren't financially compensated for it (myself included), but if people chose to donate to Ms. Klein, that's their business. As for her not taking any action to stop the verbal attacks as they occured, consider how lawsuit-happy our modern culture is, and maybe you'll understand why she was limited as to any action(s) she could take during that time.

Oh, and have you ever donated to any of these other people you mention that need the $$$ more than Ms. Klein, by any chance? Just wondering...

Carole Cherne
Carole Cherne3 years ago

I admire this kind woman and am so glad that her life will be easier financially.