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Online video of N.Y. bullying stirs passion, anger

By Chris Carola and Michael Hill

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:02 a.m. HST, Jun 23, 2012

A video of four seventh-grade boys mercilessly taunting a 68-year-old bus monitor in New York state that went viral has turned the victim into an international fundraising juggernaut and opened her tormentors to an onslaught of threats and abuse.

From around the world, small donations for Karen Klein poured into the crowd-funding site indiegogo.com, at one point crashing the site and pulling in a staggering $443,057 by early Friday.

At the same time, police in the Rochester suburb of Greece, N.Y., were stepping up patrols around the houses of the middle-schoolers accused of taunting her. Police didn’t name the boys but their purported identities leaked out on the Web.

Greece Police Capt. Steve Chatterton was compelled to warn against vigilante justice. One boy received more than a thousand death threats and commenters online were clear — and sometimes venomous — in their desire that the boys be severely punished.

“A threat for a threat does not make the situation better,” Chatterton said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

The verbal abuse was captured in a 10-minute cellphone video recorded Monday by a student of Athena Middle School and later posted to YouTube. The video shows Klein trying her best to ignore the stream of profanity, insults and outright threats. One student taunted: “You don’t have a family because they all killed themselves because they don’t want to be near you.”

Klein’s oldest son killed himself 10 years ago.

Eventually, she appears to break down in tears.

The swell of 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. Bullying expert Stephen Birchak, a professor of counseling at Albany’s College of Saint Rose, said the enormous flow of money for Klein is no surprise given the shame we feel as a society over the incident.

The stickier question is: How could the students be so cruel?

Birchak noted that the kids are growing up in a world of harsh political debates and reality TV shows in which berating people is part of the entertainment. Meanwhile, taking videos of people in humiliating situations and sharing the images has become all too normal among many adolescents, “Kids are growing up saying, ‘OK, this is how you treat your fellow human being and it’s OK to do those things,”’ he said.

Police said Klein does not want the boys to face criminal charges, partly because of the storm of criticism leveled at them.

Klein told NBC’s “Today” show Thursday that it took “a lot of willpower” not to respond to the jeers from the four boys riding the bus operated by the Greece Central School District. Klein said she was “amazed” at the support she received.

“I’ve got these nice letters, emails, Facebook messages,” she said. “It’s like, wow, there’s a whole world out there that I didn’t know. It’s really awesome.”

Klein did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The fundraiser flew past its goal of $5,000, initially designed to send the grandmother of eight on a “vacation of a lifetime.” Some 20,875 people had donated by early Friday, many in denominations of $20 or less.

“You want to jump into that bus and you want to grab those kids and say ‘Knock it off!’ And you want to hold her,” said Amy Weber, a 43-year-old independent filmmaker from the Detroit area who pledged $100.

“I think we hear about bullying every day and we become a little desensitized to it. This puts it in our face” said Weber, who is making a feature film about a bully.

Slava Rubin, Indiegogo’s chief executive officer and co-founder, called the outpouring “an incredible campaign.”

“We’re seeing good Samaritans come together to support this brave woman, and we hope that this campaign contributes positively to the important national discussion about bullying,” Rubin said in a prepared statement.

The boys had not yet apologized to Klein as of Thursday afternoon, though police said they regretted their acts. The district will pursue disciplinary actions against all four students.

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How disgusting! These children are a product of parents who do not discipline their children or teach them RESPRCT for others,ESPECIALLY their ELDERS. To see young people acting this way is disgusting. NO RESPECT! Also , the bus driver should have reprimanded them for their behavior. Afterall, I'm sure the rest of the passengers must have felt uncomfortable. In fact These passengers should also have said something to these bullies. Often times, when rude, young people are allowed to get away with such actions, they think other people condone it. I'm glad to hear some kind of disciplinay action will be taken.
on June 22,2012 | 02:00AM
ezridah wrote:
spare the rod....
on June 22,2012 | 06:06AM
aceman808 wrote:
Agree...spare the rod, spoil the child! These bullys should get some across their bottoms
on June 22,2012 | 09:56AM
justchecking wrote:
where's the bus driver in all this? just as guilty of bullying as the disrespectful kids.
on June 22,2012 | 06:57AM
environmental_lady wrote:
I'm surprised she didn't quit this lousy job a long time ago. This was not an isolated incident but ongoing as I found out in her interview. Why should she even care about those kids when they all ganged up against her? What she needs is a permanent vacation from them, not just one time. I agree with Modenaqueen that everyone else, including the bus driver, was complicit in this. But then the driver has to focus on the road.
on June 22,2012 | 06:58AM
yhls wrote:
Medea should be ridin' on dat bus.
on June 22,2012 | 07:03AM
olos73 wrote:
School district should ban these boys from riding ANY bus. Let the parents figure a way to get them to school. Like others saying, these kids need to learn to RESPECT people. The kids AND their parents should be sent to counseling, cuz seems like the parents didn't teach them anything at home.
on June 22,2012 | 08:41AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
What has this country gone to? It makes me wonder how much of an effect shows put out by WWE and others have on our children. I have seen these shows and it makes me wonder what kind of a parent would bring their kids to these shows. We know that they are scripted but how many of these children are aware that it is fake? And how many of these children learn to bully from the bullying that goes on in these shows? Ironically, WWE has been sponsoring their in-house advertisement against bullying in which WWE wrestlers and celebrities are shown expounding against bullying. Does it also beg the question of these parents about what they are teaching their children? Today, it seems that parents do not take an active role in teaching their children about what's right and wrong. They seem to assume that the schools will teach them all about that. Unfortunately either the schools themselves are not teaching enough about right and wrong or these children have become belligerent despite all of what they have been taught. Just look at the way our country has been towards other countries with water boarding and the like and maybe it is a reflection of our conscience.
on June 22,2012 | 08:54AM
Kawika50 wrote:
Heaven help those kids if they did this in Hawaii. Disrespect anybody's kupuna like that and there would be little mercy.
on June 22,2012 | 08:57AM
Ronin006 wrote:
These teenage delinquents apparently have not learned anything in school OR AT HOME about respect. They should be required to repeat the grade they are now cmpleting until they learn how to behave and respect authority.
on June 22,2012 | 09:14AM
ross13moon wrote:
the bullies are "whining" about being the victim??? bachi!!!
on June 22,2012 | 12:48PM
mookane wrote:
These little piece of sh**ts need wall.to.wall counseling !!!
on June 22,2012 | 02:45PM
mookane wrote:
The parents need wall to wall counseling too for not providing home training to these little piece of sh**ts!
on June 22,2012 | 02:49PM
1R1E wrote:
on June 22,2012 | 02:58PM
sleepy wrote:
I've seen as bad & people being physcially assaulted for no reason what so ever here @ home.They learn it somewhere mom & dad.
on June 23,2012 | 04:59AM
Notawannabe wrote:
I did not even know that sort of language existed when I was in 7th grade...and if I had treated someone like that there would have bee "hell to pay" when I got home. I doubt whether any of these brats got a spanking when they got home. Permissive parenting strikes again.
on June 23,2012 | 07:32AM
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