Sympathize with Karen Klein, but don’t send her money

First published at Huffington Post on June 22, 2012.

Earlier this week, the internet erupted with a video of 68-year old Greece, New York bus monitor Karen Klein being viciously bullied and berated by a group of four middle schoolers.

The students poked and prodded Klein while dropping every four letter word imaginable in between repeated comments on the woman’s hair style, appearance and family situation. The appalling video has become more of a sensation than last year’s Casey Heynes video, where an Australian teenager fought back against a bully — and won.

Since the New York bus video shot to popularity, Klein has done interviews with all of the major cable networks and umpteen national newspapers to share her side of the story. She’s honest, not particularly eloquent, and does not seek revenge. All she wants is an apology.

Whether or not Klein will receive the apology she seeks is still unknown, but she will be receiving a large, as-of-yet undetermined sum of money for her ordeal. On Wednesday, a Toronto blogger put a fundraising goal of $5,000 on, hoping to raise some money for Karen Klein to take a vacation. In 24 hours, $340,000 had been raised, with the number still rising (the amount at the time of publishing is $540,000).

Neither Klein nor anyone in her family requested this money, and it is her choice as to what she does with it, but she doesn’t deserve it.

The more-than-16,000 strangers who have donated to Klein in merely a day are hopping on a bandwagon that made the bus monitor the overnight postergirl for bullying. However, Klein’s reality is just as real to countless young children and teenagers who endure this ridicule on a daily basis. Those youngsters aren’t blessed with six-figure donations for their troubles.

Every epithet and threat Karen Klein had to endure on her fateful Monday afternoon bus ride was one of the many that I heard on a daily basis. I’m not alone.

Nearly all of the bad words in my vocabulary today are there because they passed through my ears as I cried my way through elementary school and high school for years. I’m not jealous of Klein’s receipt of such a substantial gift, although, if such a campaign were started for me I doubt I’d complain. My issue is with the thousands of people who found it so easy to put their credit card number into a website to help a woman unknown to them a week prior rather than taking action on the broader bullying epidemic.

Parents of bullies are often ignorant to their children’s schoolyard behaviour. Parents of the bullied are usually kept in the dark by their children. Parents of the bystanders are just happy their children aren’t in one of the other groups. Everyone has a responsibility to take an interest in bullying. Writing a check is not taking an interest.

What happens when Klein cashes her check and the world moves on? Until another video gets posted, likely nothing.

We shouldn’t need to wait for evidence of one person’s troubles to be blasted across televisions and radios around the world to be aware of an issue that will outlive the hype of Karen Klein.