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Middle schoolers bully bus monitor, 68, with stream of profanity, jeers

By Faith Karimi, CNN
June 23, 2012 -- Updated 0403 GMT (1203 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Two accused boys and the father of a third one apologize and express regret
  • NEW: "When I saw the video, I was disgusted and could not believe I did that," one boy says
  • Funds pour in for the grandmother of eight
  • Klein does not want to press criminal charges, police official says

(CNN) -- A profanity-laced video of middle school students in upstate New York verbally abusing a bus monitor is sparking an outpouring of support as strangers worldwide rally to her side.

Students taunted Karen Klein, 68, with a stream of profanity, insults, jeers and physical ridicule. Some boys demanded to know her address, saying they wanted to come to her house and steal from her.

One comment from a boy aboard the bus was especially painful, she said. He told her that she does not have family because "they all killed themselves because they didn't want to be near you."

Klein's eldest son took his own life 10 years ago, according to CNN affiliate WHAM.

The bullying continued unabated for about 10 minutes in the video, as a giggling student jabbed Klein's arm with a book and made fun of her weight.

Recorded by a student with a cell phone camera Monday, the brazen bullying went viral and spurred international outrage.

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The incident occurred in Greece, New York, near Rochester. Klein is a bus monitor for the Greece Central School District, and the harassers hail from a district middle school.

In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Klein said children misbehaved occasionally, but Monday's incident was unlike any other she had experienced.

Despite the incident, she said she does not believe her harassers are bad kids.

"Not deep down. But when they get together, things happen," she said.

As the intimidation unfolded, she tried to disregard the harassment and didn't hear everything that was uttered, she said.

But she said it hurt deeply.

At one point, she said, she told two children, "I am a person, too. I shouldn't be treated this way."

Klein said she kept looking out of the window, counting down the seconds to when the students would get off the bus.

"It was one of those things, I didn't know what to do," she said.

No charges have been filed because Klein has decided she does not want to press criminal charges, according to Greece Police Capt. Steve Chatterton.

He stressed that the investigation is continuing and the bus monitor could change her mind.

"I've gotten e-mails from the United Kingdom (and) from all over the United States saying prosecute, prosecute," Chatterton said. "I feel it. I feel it. But we have to follow the law. We can't tailor the law to meet this case because of public outrage."

The police captain said the four students pinpointed in the video, all of them seventh-graders, spoke to police voluntarily and without lawyers present.

Outrageous moments caught on camera

"As one father put it, his son is sitting back, waiting for his punishment," Chatterton said. "No one has denied accountability and they've taken responsibility for their actions."

CNN's "AC360" received statements from two of the accused middle schoolers and the father of a third student apologizing for their behavior.

"When I saw the video, I was disgusted and could not believe I did that," one boy named Josh said. "I am sorry for being so mean and I will never treat anyone this way again."

A teen named Wesley said he regretted his actions and "would be really mad" if someone had done the same to a family member.

"If your friend says to bully somebody, please don't do it," said the father of Luis, another of the seventh-graders. " We apologize to Ms. Klein. We're deeply sorry."

The video prompted an outpouring of support and a fundraiser by international crowd-funding website indiegogo.com that had gathered nearly $600,000 by Friday.

Max Sidorov, who started the fundraising campaign, said the video struck a chord with him because he is a bullying victim and the first thing that popped into his mind was to raise money to get her away from the environment.

"I had no idea I was going to raise anywhere near this amount. I thought maybe a few thousand," Sidorov said from Toronto. "Maybe to send her somewhere nice. But this is enough for her to retire."

Southwest planned to provide Klein and nine others with an all-expense paid trip to Disneyland in Southern California. Klein said the outpouring of support is overwhelming.

"I don't feel like I've done anything," she said after learning of the Southwest offer on CNN. "It's awesome."

The school district said its bullying team and the local police are conducting an investigation.

"We have discovered other similar videos on YouTube and are working to identify all of the students involved," the school district said.

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It did not elaborate on whether the additional videos are related to Klein's case, though school officials say they were all apparently posted by the same user.

"While we cannot comment on specific student discipline, we can say that students found to be involved will face strong disciplinary action," the school district said.

The students and their family members have received death threats, according to Chatterton.

"We have custody of one of their cell phones, and he had over 1,000 missed calls and 1,000 text messages threatening him. And he is a 13-year-old," the police captain said. "That must stop."

Klein said she's not pushing for criminal charges, but wants the boys to be punished.

She suggested a few disciplinary actions -- such as a ban from the bus and athletic activities or community service. But most of all, the grandmother of eight said she hopes this is the end of it.

"I want to make sure that they never do this again, to anybody," she said.

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CNN's Stephanie Gallman, Darrell Calhoun and Randi Kaye contributed to this report.

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