Internet-style justice for boys who bullied bus monitor

Karen Klein
steven senne/associated press
Karen Klein

The Internet has a reputation as an anonymous space where people can bully others at will, without fear of consequences. When a pack of middle school boys on a school bus in Greece, N.Y., verbally abused their 68-year-old bus monitor, the video appeared on YouTube, for all to see. After they picked on every aspect of her appearance until she cried, the video of the incident — now with millions of views — would seem to be the final indignity.

But instead of cheering the ruthless kids bent on humiliating an old woman, the Internet world has risen up against them. On YouTube, strangers posted videos berating the boys for violating basic standards of human decency. Teenagers posted statements of support for the bullied grandmother. A blogger started a fund to raise money to send her on a vacation. So far, he has collected more than $600,000. Now Karen Klein, who made $15,000 a year as a bus monitor, never has to work again.

The outpouring of support for Klein, who was in Boston Thursday speaking out against bullying, points out the general goodness of humanity, even behind the often impersonal filter of the Internet. The cruelty of middle schoolers notwithstanding, most people know right from wrong, and are willing to stand up for it.