Rochester, NY (writtne by Meaghan M. McDermott/Rochester Democrat And Chronicle) -- An online fundraising effort to assist a bus monitor who was verbally abused by students raised more than $1000,000 in its first day.
The effort was set in motion by a 10-minute video of profane taunting endured on Monday by bus monitor Karen Klein.
Klein didn't report the behavior and said she figured she had just ended the school year on a bad note.
But one of the kids on the Greece Athena Middle School bus captured the incident on a cellphone camera. The video was pulled off of Facebook late Tuesday and was posted to You Tube. By early Wednesday, it had gone viral around the world.
In the video, Klein does her best to ignore the harassment.
"I was trying to just ignore them, hoping they would go away, and it doesn't work," Klein said. "Trust me, they didn't go away."
The vile chorus included profanity, taunts, insults, jeers, physical ridicule and outright threats to Klein's person and home.
"The kids weren't always that bad," she said Wednesday.
Greece Central School District Assistant Superintendent Deborah Hoeft said officials learned of the video by email Wednesday morning. Two similar videos of Klein being harassed were also unearthed.
District officials called in police, Klein and the bus driver. An investigation was launched. Students were questioned by police.
"This behavior is inexcusable and a clear violation of our code of conduct," said Hoeft.
Any punishment meted out by the district would be enacted in the new school year, she said.
Greece police Capt. Steve Chatterton said that if criminal charges were filed, it would likely be in Family Court because the youths involved are juveniles
Klein, a grandmother of eight who lives in Greece, learned of the video through Facebook. She didn't watch it until she was summoned to the bus garage.
"It was like 'Wow,' " she said. "I can't believe it happened. It was just plain mean. Nobody should have to put up with that."
She said she didn't hear all of the taunting while it was happening because she is hearing impaired.
As the video circulates around the world -- it drew more than 130,000 hits by Wednesday evening -- multitudes of people have sent Klein Facebook friend requests and notes expressing sympathy and support. She also received several bouquets of flowers from strangers who were moved by the images.
An online effort on the international crowd funding site Indiegogo.com to raise money to send her on a nice vacation had raised $125,000 by 8:30 a.m. EDT Thursday.
The site was set up by Max Sidorov, a 25-year-old Toronto nutritionist who found the video Wednesday morning on the social news website Reddit.
"I saw the video and really felt for Karen," he said. "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 a vacation."
The outpouring of support has far exceeded his expectations.
"It is just huge," he said. "I thought it would get a few thousand dollars, maybe. But maybe she could retire on this."
Klein worked as a Greece bus driver for 20 years and as a bus monitor for the past three. She said she's been "kind of numb" through all the attention, and that after watching the video she thought "it must have been a miracle that I didn't lose my temper" with the kids.
Her daughter Michelle Hawkins of Greece, said she was appalled at how the youngsters treated her mother.
"It's just not right," she said.
She said her mother was scheduled to be interviewed Wednesday evening by "Good Morning America" and the "Today" show. She was scheduled to appear Thursday with Anderson Cooper on CNN and on "Fox & Friends."
As for the vacation fund, Hawkins said her mother was considering a Disney cruise for the whole family. She said the response to the situation shows that being nicer is the way to go.
Julia VanOrman, president of the Greece school board, said she's been inundated with messages and emails from people infuriated by the video.
She hopes the incident can serve as a teachable moment for a wider discussion on how to treat other people, children and adults alike.
"This (incivility) is a problem not just in this district but of the nation, and what are we actually doing about it," she said. "What are we all going to do to make sure this doesn't happen on another bus in another school district tomorrow?"
Klein said she didn't want the students to face criminal charges, but would like to see them "grounded all summer, or maybe all year."
And, Klein said, she would love an apology.
(Contributing: Victoria E. Freile)