The video of a US grandmother being bullied by a busload of school kids went viral on Thursday, tugging at the heart strings of sympathetic strangers who donated more than US$330,000 to send her on a trip to recover from the ordeal.
The 10-minute video of school bus monitor Karen Klein being harassed by 12 and 13-year-olds went viral shortly after it appeared on YouTube and Facebook late on Tuesday.
The cellphone clip shows the 68-year-old grandmother of eight trying her best to ignore taunts such as “fat ass” and “asshole” on a middle-school bus in the town of Greece, near the city of Rochester in New York state.
The students also harass the white-haired woman about her weight, her hearing aid and her hairdo. One even leans in and says he will urinate on her front door, while others make rude gestures, laugh and even poke her.
Klein did not report the abuse but the video — captured by a student on the bus — quickly became an Internet sensation.
With a goal of sending Klein on a vacation to recuperate from the trauma, the Web site indiegogo.com launched an online fundraising drive and quickly surpassed its goal of raising US$5,000. By late afternoon on Thursday, it had amassed a staggering US$338,650.
“God bless you, Karen!!” said one post on the site, signed Rachel. “I don’t know how you handled yourself with such grace in such a horrible situation,” it read.
“It completely broke my heart, and I knew I had to contribute,” says another post, signed Caroline.
Klein told television broadcaster NBC that she had been picked on before by her young charges.
“They just could be really nasty,” she said. “I want the boys punished, but I don’t know how.”
As for the outpouring of support, Klein said she was “amazed.”
“I’ve got, I don’t know, the nicest letters, e-mails, Facebook messages,” she said, adding “it’s like, wow, there’s a whole world out there that I didn’t know. It’s just really awesome.”
School authorities, meanwhile, have said the four students involved in the taunting would be disciplined.
The underaged harassers, whose names and phone numbers surfaced online, were also getting a dose of unwanted attention from the public.
Greece Police Captain Steve Chatterton said that one student’s cellphone had 700 threatening messages.
“We are trying to get people to stop because it really serves no purpose,” the chief said, adding it was no different from the bullying on the bus.