Jun 21, 2012 2:50 PM
(NBC) - The Greece, N.Y. school bus monitor bullied to tears by a group of middle school children won't press charges, she said Thursday.
An investigation had been launched after the students were caught on camera viciously taunting school bus attendant Karen Huff Klein, 68 on Monday.
Police said Klein doesn't want the seventh graders to be prosecuted, as she's satisfied with the swift community response to the incident. Greece police Capt. Steve Chatterton said the children's verbal taunts and slurs, which have gone viral in clips posted to YouTube, did not constitute a crime, reports the Associated Press.
In the three videos, which last a total of 14 minutes and have been viewed more than a million times, Klein endures one profanity-laced comment after another from a group of students during a bus ride. Greece Central (N.Y.) School District officials contacted police on Wednesday morning after seeing the video, and students believed to have been involved have been questioned by school and police officials, according to a report by the Democrat & Chronicle. Officials are deciding whether to bring any formal charges.
"I want the boys punished, but I don't know how,'' Klein told Matt Lauer on TODAY Thursday. "It made me feel really terrible, but I will get over it. I've gotten over everything else."
Klein was a bus driver for 20 years and has worked as a bus monitor in the district for the last three years. The students called her "an elephant,'' and said they would egg her house, among other unprintable slurs and comments.
Despite the nature of the taunts, Klein kept her cool and did not retaliate.
"(It took) a lot of willpower because I'm not usually that calm - just ask my kids,'' she told Lauer.
She first saw the video Wednesday morning. Klein is hearing-impaired and did not hear all of the taunts Monday before watching the video.
"There were more times than I thought when they were picking on me...because I wore hearing aids,'' Klein said. "They just could be really nasty.''
The behavior of the children has drawn outrage over the lack of civility between young children and an elder.
"How can these kids treat a grandmother that way? Do they treat their grandparents that way?" tweeted Rachel Horne, @Aersonick.
"The story on @todayshow about ill behaved kids is disgusting, parents need to teach their kids how to talk to adults," tweeted Sarah Edwards @Sarah_F_Edwards.
Thursday, Matt Lauer had stronger words.
"I think they're narrow-minded monsters, to be perfectly honest with you," he told Klein of the kids on the bus. "I think their parents should be ashamed of them.
One taunt that particularly hurt, Klein told a local television reporter, was when a student said, "You're so ugly, your kid should kill themselves.'' Klein said her son committed suicide 10 years ago.
"As a parent," Lauer said, "let me apologize for those children because what they did was despicable."
Klein spoke directly to the parents of the children.
"I'm sorry that your sons acted the way they did,'' Klein said. "I'm sure they don't act that way at home, but you never know what they're going to do when they're out of the house. They should've been taught to respect their elders no matter who it is."
"It's bullying in a way we don't generally think about it - it's elder bullying,'' said Jennifer Hartstein, a child and family psychologist, on TODAY. "We don't talk about how kids talk to the adults in their lives. Teachers face this in their classrooms with students all the time. We know that on the buses this may happen. We need to teach our kids how to be respectful."
An online fund-raising drive to give a vacation is underway. By midday Thursday, the contributions had topped $200,000 for Klein, who earns $15,506 a year at her job. A 1962 graduate of Olympia Greece High School and a grandmother of eight, she has been a widow for 17 years and still resides in Greece.
"I am amazed,'' she said. "I've gotten the nicest letters, emails, Facebook messages. It's like, wow, there's a whole world out there that I didn't know. It's just really awesome.''
The bus driver and students who were on the bus during the incident were interviewed, according to school officials. Any disciplinary action would be taken in September because school is done for the year. None of the students were identified because they are juveniles.
"We can say that students found to be involved face strong disciplinary action,'' Greece Central School District Assistant Superintendent Deborah Hoeft told reporters Wednesday.