Fighting Bullies

No one likes a bully. So why are Rose Mofford, Janet Napolitano and MTV distancing themselves from Arizona's Safe Schools, Safe Students program?

On the Web site, the offending phrasing was changed to "in colaboration [sic] with," but Rod Beaumont told New Times later, "We're partners with MTV."

• Another MTV project resulted in a more blatant altering of the facts. The anti-bully group reproduced an MTV-generated press release on its Web site announcing the network's yearlong "Fight for Your Rights" anti-discrimination campaign. In that case, the group doctored the press release to make it appear as if the Stop the Bully group was playing a key role in the project, sandwiching "Safe Schools, Safe Students and the National Anti-Bullying Hotline" into the list of "prestigious civil rights and other nonprofit organizations" that are actual partners of MTV in the campaign.

MTV representatives connected with that campaign did not return New Times' calls regarding the level of involvement by the Safe Schools organization.

The Beaumonts contacted the FBI for help finding out who had threatened them and their efforts.
courtesy of Safe Schools, Safe Students
The Beaumonts contacted the FBI for help finding out who had threatened them and their efforts.
The Beaumonts pass out anti-bully buttons and blue ribbons to supporters of their operation.
Paolo Vescia
The Beaumonts pass out anti-bully buttons and blue ribbons to supporters of their operation.

Indeed, the anti-bully group considers itself such a close partner of MTV that a pop-up window on its Web site prominently features the MTV logo and the "Fight for Your Rights" slogan. Immediately below it appears an image of a tin can with a coin going into it as the Beaumonts seek donations to the anti-bully hotline.

Rod and Mary Beaumont say the organization's money woes took them by surprise.

They wanted to start small and grow.

"We played the media game to our advantage," says Rod Beaumont, but they thought it would take a while for the word to get out about their hotline. He says they were simply unprepared for the overwhelming response to their press releases. They say they expected a few hundred calls in the early weeks after their September 15 opening, but they got about 1,000 in the first week. After the appearance on the CBS morning show -- and the flashing of the hotline number on the screen -- "it just went crazy," Beaumont says. "By Thanksgiving, we were getting 37,000 calls or e-mails a week."

But the chronology of the group's financial problems doesn't jibe with the recollections of one of its former partners, or the desperate press releases sent out just two weeks after the hotline began.

Stan Turner, the Democratic party chairman of Prescott, worked for the Beaumonts for a year after answering a newspaper ad for an advertising salesman to sell space in the monthly School to Work newsletter. (That was a Beaumont project that evolved into the Safe Schools, Safe Students newsletter as well as the anti-bully hotline.)

Before quitting his job in October, Turner was helping coordinate the Safe Communities = Safe Schools week, seven days of voluntary special events that the Beaumonts say was adopted by thousands of schools across the country.

Turner says when he left the job, the hotline had just begun and was not too busy, although people who had received press releases were beginning to call to find out more about the group's efforts.

But an October 2 press release issued just two weeks after the hotline opened for business (and weeks before the CBS show) says "thousands of children and their parents have been calling . . . as the spate of child bullying, hazing and abuse continues across the United States."

In that release, "project coordinator" Mary Harvey is quoted as saying funding is already proving a "major limitation . . . putting the group in a strangle hold that could kill off this invaluable resource."

As with all Stop the Bully press releases, the announcement includes pleas for money and offers several ways to contribute: cash, credit card, sending a check by mail, using fax or telephone. One form on the Web site asks donors to fill out all the information on the front of the check (including bank account numbers, etc.) in lieu of mailing one in. And another release included the organization's bank account number for those wishing to merely wire funds into the anti-bully account.

While the Safe Schools group was reeling from fiscal troubles, so were the Beaumonts.

Just three weeks before opening their hotline, the couple filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Phoenix, claiming debts of more than $125,000, assets of about $6,900 and a combined monthly income of $3,616 -- stemming from Rod Beaumont's income from his own educational consulting organization called Paradigm Marketing, and Mary's disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A list of their outstanding debts shows about $24,000 in Mary Beaumont's student loans for her education and about $100,000 in credit-card charges and loans from a dozen different accounts in various cities and states.

Under assets, they value their 40 percent interest in Paradigm (their two sons own the rest of the firm) at $1, and the value of Rod's "best-selling" book at $1. They include things like hammers and other tools valued at $150, a black Lab dog worth $20 and a mutt valued at $50. After their $3,000 in the Arizona State Retirement System -- from when Rod worked as a School to Work coordinator for Yavapai Community College -- their most valuable asset is a 1986 Chevy Cavalier worth $2,500.

(School to Work was a federally mandated program aimed at getting more graduates ready for the work force. Coordinating efforts involved forging partnerships between educational institutions and companies to learn about, then institute, school training that would better satisfy business needs. The federal law expires this year, and states and school districts are expected to carry on the program.)

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