UPDATED: Bullied School Bus Monitor Gets Apologies, Donations Swell to Over $500K

School Bus Monitor Karen Klein (Photo: NBC)

UPDATE: At least two of the middle school students caught on camera bullying their 68-year-old school bus monitor and driving her to tears have issued statements of apology to Karen Klein of Rochester, New York.

“I am so sorry for the way I treated you,” a student named Josh said in a statement Thursday issued by police to “Anderson Cooper 360.” “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 boy identified as Wesley gave this apology:

“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.”

While appearing on Cooper’s show Thursday, Klein questioned the kids’ sincerity and says neither child has apologized to her in person; she also doubts she will hear from the others.

Meanwhile, the wave of support and compassion for Karen Klein has been astounding since the heartbreaking videos went public earlier this week. By Friday afternoon, more than 25,000 people have donated over $540,000 (*and counting!) to an online fund established to send Klein on “the vacation of a lifetime.”

Anderson Cooper also revealed on Thursday’s “360” that Southwest Airlines is paying for Klein and nine of her friends and family to go to Disneyland for three nights.

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If you were worried about the youth of America before, wait until you join the 1.5 million people who’ve watched an upsetting 10-minute video of a group of middle school boys bullying their elderly school bus monitor on Monday.

Karen Klein, a 68-year-old widow and grandmother of eight from Rochester, New York, sat quietly in her seat and fought back tears, as students viciously taunted her on the school bus, cursing at her, calling her names and telling her she was fat and looked like a troll.

“She probably misses her box of Twinkies,” said one. Another particularly hurtful and shockingly insensitive comment came from a kid who told her she didn’t have any family because they all committed suicide. (Klein’s son killed himself a decade ago.)

“It made me feel really terrible,” Klein told Matt Lauer via satellite on Thursday’s “Today” show. “But I will get over it, I’ve gotten over everything else.”

“They just could be really nasty,” Klein said, who adds she was picked on “more times than I thought,” like for wearing a hearing aid.

Lauer commended Klein on how she showed impressive self-restraint during the verbal attacks. It took “a lot of willpower,” Klein said. “I’m not usually that calm. Ask my kids.”

Watch Excerpts of the Video Featuring Kids Bullying Their School Bus Monitor Below:

[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Today/96422/2248554400/Bullied-Bus-Monitor%3A-Teasing-%E2%80%98made-Me-Feel-Terrible%E2%80%99/embed 580 476]

As for those students, whom Lauer described as “narrow-minded monsters,” Klein says she does not want the kids punished. However, she says she does hope it can serve as a lesson to children. “I do hope parents see this,” Klein said, “and talk to their kids, and tell them to be a little more respectful.”

And to those parents of the tormentors, Klein adds: “I’m sorry that your sons acted the way they did. 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.”

School officials from the Greece Central School District are reportedly investigating the incident but it’s unknown what, if any, disciplinary action may be taken.

By Thursday, however, it was the seventh graders who were being harassed–by the enormous wave of Klein supporters who were outraged and disgusted by what they saw caught on the video.

“They’ve received death threats,” Police Capt. Steve Chatterton of Greece, NY, said Thursday, according to CBS News. “Their families have been threatened. We have custody of one of their cellphones, and he had over 1,000 missed calls and 1,000 text messages threatening him. And he’s 13 years old. That must stop.”

Meanwhile, the video, which was captured on a cellphone by a student and posted on YouTube, has quickly gone viral (actually, there are three videos). There has been an outpouring of support and compassion for Klein, who was an upstate New York school bus driver for 20 years, and a bus monitor for the last three years.

People have even pledged donations online to create a fund to send Klein — who reportedly earns $15,506 a year for that job — on the “vacation of a lifetime.” The fundraising effort, initiated by Max Sidorov, a 25-year-old Toronto nutritionist, had an initial goal of $5,000; amazingly, by Friday afternoon more than 25,000 people have donated over $540,000 (*and counting)!

In addition, Anderson Cooper revealed on Thursday’s show that Southwest Airlines is paying for Klein and nine of her friends and family to go to Disneyland for three nights.

“I am amazed,” Klein said of the massive show of support from strangers, “I’ve gotten some of 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.”

Kathie Lee Gifford Calls Bullies “Cowards”:

[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Today/96422/2248614333/Kathie-Lee%3A-Kid-Bullies-Are-%E2%80%98such-Cowards%E2%80%99/embed 580 476]

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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