Bus monitors ride along in school buses to help keep the peace. They are simply chaperones. Paid baby sisters. The intent is to stop kids from harassing each other and picking on younger ones.
Karen Kline, 68, made $15,000 a year as a bus monitor in Greece, NY. Just a few weeks ago, a video of her being tormented for 10 minutes, changed the conversation on bullying, social media and even fundraising. The stream of profanity, insults and physical threats was filmed on an Athena Middle school student’s cell phone. The video went viral after it was posted on YouTube. Karen was verbally and physically assaulted and tormented while struggling not to escalate the situation and respond in kind.
The boys didn’t just make hateful comments about her weight and her age. They suggested she had a STD, called her a troll, and when they saw her crying said that it was because she missed her box of Twinkies.
One of their comments struck close to home. "You don’t have a family because they all killed themselves because they don’t want to be near you." Ten years ago Klein’s oldest son committed suicide.
A Toronto area man named Max Sidarov felt so bad about the incident that he started a fund for Klein to take a long-overdue vacation. He hoped to raise $5,000. Donations to the site officially closed yesterday, and at time of printing, the total was closing in on $700,000. The website, called "Lets Give Karen — The bus monitor — Klein A Vacation!" has the fundraising world perplexed.
How is so much raised, so quickly? Indiegogo.com CEO Slava Rubin told NBC News "Never have we seen a campaign raise this much money this quickly."
Now that the boys involved have been punished (many are making restitution to Kline personally) and the monitor looks to be moving on, the only thing left to do is pay the IRS its roughly 30 per cent for income tax (since this money is taxable under US law). And with roughly half a million dollars in the bank, Karen Kline will likely never have to work again.
Parents around the country, indeed around the world, had a little chat with their kids after this video went viral. I know we did. After all, in addition to tormenting another human being in a terrible way, how would you feel if it came to light, for the world to see, that your child was indeed a monster?
Back to some of the non profit groups openly frustrated by the amount of money one woman can raise in such a short period of time. With billions of people on Facebook, and so many people raising money for fringe causes, the million (or billion) dollar question, is "How do I do that?"
REALITY CHECK No. 1: It all starts with a powerful story, one with an emotional connection, and then a call to action. Sure it started as a YouTube video, but at risk of sounding self-serving, it was traditional media that drove the car, after social media started the engine. The story broke mid-afternoon and money started coming in. Then the supper news (nobody watches) launched it out of this world. This was followed by the biggest push — morning radio/TV and newspaper. Those not connected to the internet 24/7 were now brought up to speed, and went online to see what happened. They got mad, they got sad. They opened their purse. The end. It’s the perfect example of something going viral. But how did they bring in so much so fast? Can’t we just say that the website brought out the best in people, just like group psychology on the bus brought out the worst in those kids?
REALITY CHECK No. 2: "Facebook addiction" is real. Why? It makes us feel good. People use social media to manage negative feelings and find positive ones. Online interaction and content makes us feel better, even for a moment. Our many networks let us connect with others that help us feel just a bit better about ourselves, a bit less lonely, a bit more masterful and powerful. But just because a video, or picture or event is funny or clever or creative, doesn’t mean it will work. You must emotionally connect. Make something, do something, or "tell a story" and emotionally connect. Think of it this way. What is your favourite movie and WHY? Chances are, it connected with you emotionally in some way. Now granted the movie was not asking for money, trying to sell you something, or bring light to a cause … or was it?
REALITY CHECK No. 3: Everybody’s got the best product, the best price, the best location, the best service … blah blah blah. And ALL fundraising groups are worthy of our time and money. They all help people in our community. They all do great work. But to stand out, to get attention, to be effective, you have to show the world you are "different" by emotionally connecting. Powerful storytelling (in this case the story basically tells itself) builds the instant connection. And people spend money because A) it solved a problem or B) it makes them feel good. In this case, the video, the story, the kids make us feel terrible. Nobody wants to feel terrible. If you can both solve a problem AND make people feel good, your ad campaign, fundraising campaign, political campaign will hit the mother load.
REALITY CHECK No. 4: Creating a frictionless path to feeling better or frictionless path to solving a problem is the quickest means to success. It’s impossible to watch the video and not feel terrible. You watch it and feel compelled to do anything, to get rid of that horrible feeling. And then, right there on the side of the screen is a bright red-pink button: "CONTRIBUTE NOW." With a single click you join the network of redemption, with a total donated right there in big green letters. Immediate feedback shows you are part of a movement, restoring moral balance and building a better world. Now if I could just get Max to start a "Tyler needs a vacation website." Hmmmm.
- Fern O’Donnell
- Jay Gobeil
- Danelle Kerr
- Alexandria Dunne
- Alyshia Amber Dawn Chambers
- Ariel Julienne Paquette
- Crystal Brown
- Trish Chartrand
- Jen Kolesar
- Monica Enns Parks
- Shereen Marie
- Joan Wright Bomford
- Logan McFadden
- Rita Machado
- Surien Fourie
Joke This Week
A guy joins a monastery and takes a vow of silence: he’s allowed to say two words every seven years.
After the first seven years, the elders bring him in and ask for his two words.
"Cold floors," he says. They nod and send him away.
Seven more years pass. They bring him back in and ask for his two words.
He clears his throats and says, "Bad food." They nod and send him away.
Seven more years pass. They bring him in for his two words.
"I quit," he says.
"That’s not surprising," the elders say. "You’ve done nothing but complain since you got here."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 21, 2012