Karen Klein is a bus monitor on a school bus in suburban Rochester, N.Y., but she probably feels more like a Christian who’s been thrown to the lions — because the kids she deals with are vile, filthy-mouthed and just plain mean.
On Monday, one of the middle school kids who rides the bus recorded video of various students taunting Klein and making fun of her weight, her clothes and her purse, among other things. It’s disgusting to watch, but you can see it below. Even after it’s obvious that she’s crying, they continue to taunt her.
One of the most heart-breaking parts is when a student says she doesn’t have a family, because they all committed suicide so they wouldn’t have to be around her. Klein’s oldest son did commit suicide 10 years ago, so she said this was the most hurtful thing the kids said to her. We have no idea whether they knew about her son’s suicide.
If this is where the story ended, I’m not sure I’d even be sharing it with you. When I first saw the video on Wednesday, I thought it was too depressing to write about. But then someone took it upon himself to help Klein — and the results have been amazing.
When Toronto nutritionist Max Sidorov saw the video online, he wanted to do something to help the bullied woman who he identified with.
“I saw the video and really felt for Karen,” Max Sidorov told USA Today. “I have some experience with bullying from when I was young and what they were doing to her was just heartbreaking. The best thing I could think to do was start a fundraiser to send her on vacation.”
Sidorov thought he might be able to raise a few thousand dollars for Klein, so he set a goal of $5,000 on a page at fundraising site IndiGoGo. As of late Thursday night, the campaign had raised an incredible $427,006 from roughly 20,000 donors.
I don’t know what’s going to be done with all that money. I doubt anyone knows right now. (Klein’s daughter has joined the fundraising campaign as an administrator with Sidorov.) Klein only makes about $15,000 a year with her job, so I’m sure some of the money would be nice for her. I suspect some of it will eventually be used for something else, but who knows?
For me, the important thing is that people saw someone being bullied and wanted to help. The story shows one of the ugliest sides of humanity and one of the best sides. People can be brutally cruel and evil, but they can also be generous and supportive.
There’s a strong temptation to draw conclusions about societal problems from this video, and I’m not quite sure what I think about that. There’s a part of me that wants to believe that some kids have always been like this — always cruel and mean when they could get away with it. But when I think back to my own experiences, I can’t think of anything comparable, and I can’t imagine my peers doing something such as that to an adult — any adult, much less one in an authority position. The very fact that Klein didn’t even bother to report the behavior to the school says a lot about the low expectations she had of getting any help or support.
Some of the kids involved are now getting harassed. There are even reports of death threats against at least one of them. I don’t condone those threats, of course, but I have a lot of trouble finding too much sympathy after watching what they did to Karen Klein.
What conclusions can we draw from this? People are mean and evil. People are also loving and kind. The fact that we all have a little bit of each extreme is the toughest thing to understand about humanity.