Two of the students who mercilessly taunted a 68-year-old school bus monitor have apologized along with their parents, CNN’s Anderson Cooper
The verbal abuse of bus monitor Karen Klein by the seventh graders was captured in a 10-minute cellphone video recorded Monday by a student of Athena Middle School in suburban Rochester, New York, and later posted to YouTube.
The video became an international online rallying point against bullies, with a fund for the Rochester grandmother raising close to $400,000 and people demanding harsh punishment for the boys.
Two of the students who taunted Klein apologized in written statements, which were aired on CNN. One of the boys, Josh, said, "I am so sorry for the way I treated you. When I saw the video I was disgusted and could not believe I did that. I am sorry for being so mean and I will never treat anyone this way again."
Another student, Wesley, said, "I feel really bad about what I did. I wish I had never done those things. If that had happened to someone in my family, like my mother or grandmother, I would be really mad at the people who did that to them."
The video shows Klein trying her best to ignore the stream of profanity, insults, and outright threats directed at her. One student taunted: "You don't have a family because they all killed themselves because they don't want to be near you." Klein's oldest son committed suicide 10 years ago, according to CNN.
The mother of one of the boys, Wesley, told Klein in a statement: “I cannot even tell you how badly I feel. I am deeply sorry for what my son did. I wish there was some way to make it up to you. I would like it if he could do some work for you or help you in some way. I'm sure that you don't want him anywhere near you or your property and I don't blame you. I am embarrassed, angry and sad about the awful way he treated you. I am truly sorry.”
Klein told NBC's "Today" show Thursday that it took "a lot of willpower" not to respond to the jeers from the four boys riding the bus operated by the Greece Central School District. Klein said she was "amazed" at the support she received.
"I've got these nice letters, emails, Facebook messages," she said. "It's like, wow, there's a whole world out there that I didn't know. It's really awesome."
She said she hopes the parents will talk to their children about being "a little more respectful."
Klein did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.
The video logged more than 2 million views by Thursday afternoon, breaking hearts and raising passions of people who recalled bullying incidents in their own pasts. The fundraiser set up on Indiegogo.com shattered its goal of raising $5,000 to send the grandmother of eight on a "vacation of a lifetime." More than 12,000 people donated, many in denominations of $20 or less.
"I don't see how anyone can watch that and not be touched by it. It made me realize — and I posted on my Facebook wall — that sticks and stones may break my bones but words will still hurt you no matter how old you are," said Deana Rock, a 42-year-old marketing professional from Williston, Vt., who pledged $30.
Rock said she was moved to tears by the video and donated the money so Klein would not have to get back on the bus.
Police in the suburb of Greece had to step up patrols near the houses of the four boys and said they had received several threatening hoax calls from people. The boys had not yet apologized to Klein as of Thursday afternoon, though police said they regretted their acts and their parents are cooperating.
The district apologized to Klein and will pursue disciplinary actions against all four students.
The swell of support for Klein follows a recent surge in awareness of bullying that has brought the issue from the classroom to the stage and screen to the White House.
In September, after 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer of suburban Buffalo killed himself after complaining about being bullied about his sexuality, pop singer Lady Gaga decried the loss of another life to bullying, tweeting to millions of followers that she'd take her concerns to President Barack Obama.
This year, the White House held a conference on bullying prevention, estimating that it affects 13 million students, or about a third of those attending school. Obama said he hoped to "dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up."
In April, the documentary film "Bully" examined the problem by following five kids over the course of a school year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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