Heckling the Bus Monitor

July 16th, 2012 by Andrea Bennett

A harassed bus monitor gets an astounding donation for her suffering. Should she keep it?

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The Responsibility Project

Karen Klein, a 68-year-old bus monitor, garnered national attention when a 10-minute video of her being heckled by a group of middle schoolers went viral. The video, shot on the students’ way home from Athena Middle School in Greece, New York, prompted a site called Indiegogo.com to raise $5,000 to send the beleaguered grandmother on “the vacation of a lifetime.” By the time she reached the Today show – where I first saw her – the site had raised $648,000 – a staggering sum she said she plans on dividing among grandkids, investments and donations to charity.

But regardless of how she intends to spend her new fortune, many believe the sum is a bit over the top. Adrien Chen at Gawker notes that when Anderson Cooper asked Klein if she expected the outpouring of support she received, she replied that she hadn’t done anything. And according to Chen, the fact that she didn’t “is just one of the many reasons why she should decline the money raised in her name.” Taking the money, Chen writes, would transform her from blameless victim into the most highly paid reality television star in history. More importantly, Chen says, the amount does nothing to teach bullies a lesson other than that they shouldn’t upload the evidence to YouTube. 

But after watching the entire video, it becomes harder to argue that Klein shouldn’t just take the money and run. After all, here’s a woman who, according to Indiegogo, makes slightly more than $15,000 a year, only to be yelled and sworn at, and prodded about her weight and her station in life, and finally brought to tears by a group of mean-spirited students.

Lindsay Mannering at The Stir thinks Klein’s plans for the money are just fine (the sum had reached nearly $680,000 by the time I watched the clip): “Well, Karen,” Mannering says, “not everyone would donate to charity, and not everyone would help out their loved ones. Some people would blow it all on ridiculous toys, some would blow it all in Vegas […] and some would just hole up in their houses, feeling paralyzed into inaction by the pressure to do the right thing.”

Ultimately, the money has been raised, it’s going to Klein, and she’s entitled to do with it what she will. Lost in this story, however, is that none of the students who ridiculed her in one of the worst profanity-laden rants I’ve ever heard – for no reason – have been forced to apologize to Klein face-to-face. One parent appeared on camera to apologize to her, and the four boys have written notes. Should these parents require that their kids apologize privately in person? And where do you stand on Klein keeping the money? Let us know.