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Commentary: Bullied bus monitor shouldn’t be rewarded

On July 20, Karen Klein, the 68-year-old bus monitor from Greece, N.Y., will receive 93 percent of the donations made on her behalf after a video of middle school children taunting her went viral.

As of July 17, donations on Indiegogo.com’s “Let’s Give Karen – The bus monitor – H Klein a Vacation” had reached more than $680,000. Klein’s share will be more than $630,000 after deductions of 3 percent for credit card processing fees and 4 percent for the website used by donators.

After the incident put her in the media limelight, I watched the entire 10 minutes and 8 seconds of the appalling video, and many of the interviews with Klein and parents of the students responsible for the bullying.

I didn’t react with complete sympathy for Klein.

I am a non-traditional student who started working full-time for OSU when staff cuts at Worthington City Schools left me without a full-time job. During my 11 years with the district, I was a classified substitute, a middle school lunchroom monitor and a high school study hall monitor.

As a former student monitor, I have to wonder how Klein let the behavior go on for more than 10 minutes. The kids were cursing, using abusive language, calling her by her first name, poking items at her and at one point talking about what would happen if they stabbed her with a knife. The video shows her engaging them by responding to some of their inappropriate questions.

In one interview, a reporter asked Klein when the bullying began and she said it had been building up for a while, but she hadn’t written them up for referral because she didn’t like confrontation.

Her responsibilities as a bus monitor are to maintain order, avoid conflict and enact school policy. Her negligence to report these students at the onset of the bullying only sent a message of condoning their behavior. 

I do not approve of what the students did – and I fully support their yearlong suspension from school and from bus privileges – but I also think Klein needs to take ownership in allowing the incident to build to that abusive level. The school district should have suspended her as well for not doing her job.

When the students first wrote letters of apology and the parents apologized for their kids’ behavior, Klein told a reporter she didn’t accept their apologies.

Donations came flooding in so this grandmother could take a vacation and quit her job. What about all the young people who have committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied for their looks or their sexual orientation? Who donated money to those victims?

Bullying existed back in the ‘60s and ‘70s when I was growing up, except I was told I was the “teasable-type.” It also existed when my daughter grew up in the ‘80s, but I intercepted it when I knew of it. School districts across the country have recently taken an anti-bullying stand, but it won’t stop until the adults stand up, confront it and act on it.

Klein should consider taking her small fortune and donating it to an anti-bullying organization or awareness program to help the very children she was paid to protect and monitor.  

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