Karen Klein's school bus bullies receive death threats

(CBS News) The seventh grade boys seen in a video taunting bus monitor Karen Klein are getting death threats, CBS News has learned.

Video of Karen Klein, elderly school bus monitor, being verbally abused goes viral, sparks charity
Funds for bullied bus monitor skyrocket

The threats to the boys and their families come as online donations for the grandmother of eight continue to pour in - already totaling more than $449,000.

It's been quite a week for Klein. She started it as a bus monitor and former driver - a 23 year veteran - in a suburb of Rochester. She was not particularly well known outside her neighborhood. She ends the week, however, as a YouTube sensation known around the world for enduring some nasty harassment from four seventh grade bullies.

If you haven't seen the video of Karen Klein getting taunted by four kids who ride her bus by now, you're a member of an ever-shrinking minority. (The video contains extremely graphic language.)

On a recent visit with Klein, CBS News asked if the kids are acting like jerks or are simply rotten apples, Klein said, "Two are jerks, two are rotten apples."

In the video, Klein seems to try to ignore the taunts, though there was a lot more going on under the passive surface. When asked if part of her got angry, Klein said, "Oh yeah, there was a part of me, but it stayed in me. I wanted to (makes slapping motion with her hand) slap, slap, slap)."

When asked if she would have liked to resort to violence to defend herself, she replied, "Oh yeah. I sure would have - Just wipe the snicker right off their faces, but you can't do that. I didn't."

That's not Klein. Early Thursday evening one of the boys' fathers came to apologize and assure her his son would be punished. The father, Robert Helm, said, "There's not 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 and 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."

And Klein ended the conversation with the father, alluding to threats the families have been getting. She said, "But you'll be OK, right?"

Klein said she heard reports about the families receiving phone calls and threats and said, "I didn't like that."

Perhaps it's Klein's generous nature that people around the country and around the world have been responding to, clogging her inbox with supportive emails and donating a total of more than $400,000 to a webpage titled "Let's Give Karen The Bus Monitor a Vacation," which is all a little confusing to her. "They say I'm such a great person and they love me, but they don't even really know me," she said.

As for the boys, Klein is relieved at what she's seen of their parents' response.

Helm said he felt rage and sadness when he learned his child was one of the boys in the video. "A lot of emotions were going on in my mind. Mostly sadness," he said. "I just felt terrible."

But the apologies she really wants to hear are not from the parents - they're from the kids - eventually. She said she doesn't want to hear from them face-to-face because the feelings are too raw. "I would rather wait a while," she said.

Perhaps the most generous thing Klein has done is to be very clear that she doesn't want to see any criminal charges filed against the four boys. To her, community service would be fine, or perhaps the boys not being able to use the buses. But at the end of the day, she doesn't feel what they did was criminal.

For CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod's full report, watch the video in the player above.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.

Comments

Follow Us