• Middle schoolers prove the best and worst of the Internet

    Date: 06.23.12 | by Judge Tom.

    Karen Klein is a 68 year-old grandmother in the small town of Greece, New York. To make ends meet, she’s a bus-monitor for a local school district. She’s paid $15,000.00 a year for performing her duties – that’s a little less than $300.00 a week.

    In June, 2012, a group of 7th-graders wanted to get their 15 minutes of fame on YouTube and decided to taunt Ms. Klein while filming her response. While on the bus, they taunted her and made jokes about her weight and family. Ms. Klein remained seated and suffered their abuse. She started to cry and simply reminded them about the Golden Rule – to say something nice to someone or nothing at all. They had no idea their post would log more than two million views and outrage at their treatment of this lady. Their 10-minute profanity-laced tirade is shameful at best. Three of the four boys involved apologized to Ms. Klein as well as one of their parents.

    Grandma Karen

    The school is considering the appropriate discipline for the boys. Ms. Klein doesn’t want them expelled or prosecuted for their behavior. She commented that they should be banned from riding the bus and from sports for one year. Update: it was announced in July that the boys would be suspended from school for one year.

    The website Indiegogo.com started a fundraiser with a goal of raising $5,000 to send Ms. Klein on ”the vacation of a lifetime” and help her retire. Indiegogo raises money for a variety of causes. In the first week of fundraising, over half a million dollars had been donated by over 25,000 people from around the world. Southwest Airlines contributed airfare and hotel for a trip to Disneyland.

    Here we have kids not using but abusing the Internet to further their own ill-guided goals of harming another. On the other hand, the same medium is used to bring forth the best in people – donations, many anonymous, for a victim of bullying. Seventh-graders aren’t expected to fully understand the concept of consequences, but the basic principle of kindness toward others should be instilled at home and reenforced when the child starts school.

    Update: It was announced in August, 2012, that Ms. Klein will donate $75,000 to create the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation. Details to come soon. She received over $700,000 from the worldwide campaign sponsored by Indiegogo.com. Over 32,000 people contributed to the cause.

    As Mother Teresa said: “There are three things in human life: the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind.”

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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