A fund drive to raise money for the 68-year-old grandmother school bus monitor cruelly bullied by seventh grade boys has topped more than half a million dollars.
Millions of viewers from around the world watched Karen Klein's humiliation. There were cries of indignation and sympathy, retribution and recompense. Through posts on social media and the user-generated news site Reddit.com, word spread geometrically of the incident in upstate New York, leading to a fund drive that began with a modest goal of $5,000 to help Klein take a nice vacation and scrub the foul memories of the last days of school from her mind.
By Friday afternoon, the drive had sailed past $520,000, with donations from more than 24,000 people.
"Oh, my God," Klein told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday, when the total was around $370,000. She said it was "weird, very weird" to suddenly be an international celebrity and joked she'd have to go out in public disguised by a wig and dark glasses.
The verbal abuse was captured in a 10-minute cellphone video recorded Monday by a student of Athena Middle School in the Rochester suburb of Greece. 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.
Max Sidorov, the 25-year-old Canadian man who started the fund drive on the site Indiegogo.com started with modest goals. In an interview with the National Post newspaper in Canada, the kinesiologist and nutritionist said he was astonished at the generosity of complete strangers.
Not all the feedback has been positive. Police in the Rochester suburb of Greece, N.Y., stepped 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 and at least one received death threats.
Police said Klein does not want the boys to face criminal charges, partly because of the storm of criticism leveled at them. The district will pursue disciplinary actions against all four students.
In the AP interview, Klein asked people to leave the boys alone.
"Threatening them? No. That's not the way to go about things," she said. "They're just kids."
"I don't want to judge anybody or put them in jail or anything like that. I just want them to learn a lesson."
The viral video of a 68-year-old school bus monitor in New York mercilessly taunted by seventh graders has become an international rallying point against bullying.
A fund for Karen Klein, the grandmother who was the target of the abuse, swiftly raised more than a quarter-million dollars. At the same time, a deluge of people are demanding harsh punishment for the boys.
Police said Klein does not want her young tormentors to face criminal charges, in part because of the storm of criticism the boys from the Rochester suburb of Greece are enduring.
The verbal abuse was captured in a 10-minute cellphone video recorded Monday by an Athena Middle School student and later posted to YouTube. It had more than 2 million views by Thursday afternoon.