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Associated Press, Published June 21 2012

VIDEO: At least $275K raised for bullied bus monitor

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A video of a 68-year-old school bus monitor mercilessly taunted by seventh-graders became an international online rallying point against bullies Thursday, with a fund for the Rochester grandmother raising at least $275,000 and a deluge of people demanding harsh punishment for the boys.

Police said Karen Klein does not want her young tormenters to face criminal charges, partly because of the storm of criticism leveled at the boys from the Rochester suburb of Greece after the video went viral.

“They’ve received death threats,” Greece Police Capt. Steve Chatterton said Thursday. “Their families have been threatened. We have custody of one of their cellphones, and he had over 1,000 missed calls and 1,000 text messages threatening him. And he’s 13 years old. That must stop.”

The verbal abuse was captured in a 10-minute cellphone video recorded Monday by a student of Athena Middle School in suburban Rochester and later posted to YouTube. The video shows Klein trying her best to ignore the stream of profanity, insults and outright threats directed at her. 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.

“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 Thursday through the international crowd-funding site Indiegogo.com.

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.”

She said she hopes the parents will talk to their children about being “a little more respectful.”

The video logged more than 2 million views by Thursday afternoon, breaking hearts and raising passions of people who recalled bullying incidents in their own pasts.

The fundraiser set up on Indiegogo.com shattered its goal of raising $5,000 to send the grandmother of eight on a “vacation of a lifetime.” More than 12,000 people donated, many in denominations of $20 or less.


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