GREECE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Ten minutes of humiliation led to action and an outpouring of support for an upstate grandmother.
In only three days, school bus monitor Karen Klein has turned into an Internet celebrity, and, as CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported Friday, a father of one of the bullies has now come forward to apologize.
The apology was a start for Klein. Robert Helm is the father of one of the four Athena Middle School seventh grade boys who picked on Klein on the bus.
“There’s no excuse and we’re going to get to the bottom of that, but it really broke my heart and I shed a lot of tears thinking about that whole thing. I just want you to know that my family, all of us, are deeply saddened by this whole thing and we’re going to get it right,” Helm said.
The humiliation was recorded, posted on YouTube, and then viewed around the world.
WARNING: OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE
From the video come serious backlash as some of the boys are reportedly receiving death threats. That upset Klein, who has been getting calls from people touched by what happened to her. People from all over have flocked to a website and have given more than $500,000 to a fund to send the 68-year-old grandmother on vacation, and to help her retire.
“They say I’m such a great person, and they love me, but they don’t even know me,” Klein said.
Klein said she doesn’t want criminal charges brought against the boys and she doesn’t want them expelled from school. She said she thinks community service might be the appropriate punishment. She said she also wants an apology from the students, but she’s not quite ready to hear from them yet.
“I would rather wait a while,” she said.
Child psychologist Jennifer Hartstein told CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu on Friday that parents should sit down with their kids and watch the video together, and then have an open, frank discussion.
“Here you see these kids doing X, what would you do if that were you? If these were your friends, would you have joined in, said something to the bus driver? And you can teach some empathy. How do you think she felt when they were talking like this?” Dr. Hartstein said.
She said parents need to teach their kids to be strong enough to break away from the mob mentality of ganging-up on the weak, and added in this age of texting and social media, parents have to make time for true interaction, the old fashion way.
“Sometimes parents are texting two rooms apart from each other and not really interacting. Face to face time is more important than all of these other social media things. Sit down, learn what your kids are doing, ask about their friends, understand it and that may be the first line of defense in preventing this stuff from happening,” Dr. Hartstein said.
She said disrespectful behavior often peaks in middle and high school, but it can start really early — as young as 2 and 3 years old — so parents need to focus on teaching courtesy and respect from the start.
Klein said she also thinks the boys who tormented her should be banned from taking the bus for a year.
Klein said she’s willing to go back on the bus, but maybe also take that vacation America has planned for her.
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