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?

Police will say there are several aspects of the four incidents that they find curious, out of the ordinary in a town that does have its share of gangs and graffiti:

The graffiti are unlike any seen before in Prescott. There is no history of religious intolerance in town. In fact, they say, quite the opposite is true. Many church or temple groups come to the city -- with its cool summer climate -- for retreats, camps or meetings and there has never been any trouble. And they say no one has boasted about drawing the graffiti and it hasn't spread to any other parts of town, two things taggers usually do.

And while they say the Beaumonts are not considered suspects in the case, they say they haven't ruled them out, either.

Mary and Rod Beaumont are the founders of the anti-bully hotline in Prescott.
Paolo Vescia
Mary and Rod Beaumont are the founders of the anti-bully hotline in Prescott.
Louie Koch, 16, answers a call to the hotline while Elijah Otten, 16, helps him out.
Paolo Vescia
Louie Koch, 16, answers a call to the hotline while Elijah Otten, 16, helps him out.

So who are these people, how did they end up in Prescott and who is supporting them?

Their press releases and background fact sheets portray them as a husband and wife with solid educational experience who landed in Prescott for a School to Work community college job. Both claim to have years of experience teaching. A few years ago, they say, they decided to give up their $100,000-a-year jobs and devote themselves to fighting bullies and making schools safe places in which to learn.

"Kids have to be able to be in an atmosphere that is secure and an environment that encourages you to open yourself up and allow yourself to learn," Rod Beaumont says. "Otherwise the learning process is thwarted."

They say the Safe Schools, Safe Students group -- which started the anti-bully hotline -- is a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Therefore, all contributions to them are tax-deductible. But IRS and corporate paperwork shows the organization that actually has that nonprofit, tax-exempt status is School to Work Publications, the Beaumonts' Prescott-based business that published a newsletter about school-to-work issues (aimed at how to get students better prepared for the work force). Beaumont has claimed his Paradigm Group International, an educational consulting group with vague goals of improving educational systems across the globe, is also a nonprofit organization recognized by the IRS. He also claims it did $2 million in business a few years ago. But the federal identification number used for that group and School to Work Publications, as well as the Safe Schools, Safe Students anti-bully hotline, are all the same one.

Many of the lofty claims made by the Beaumonts in person and in background biographical materials are difficult to prove -- that Rod Beaumont worked in 123 different countries in 1985, for example, and that as an airline transport pilot, he has flown sea and land aircraft for such clients as the CIA. Some couldn't be proved or disproved, such as his educational background. He says he received an undergraduate journalism degree and a master's in education and communication from the University of Birmingham, England, and a doctorate in communication from St. Andrew's in Scotland. (Officials at both institutions say they had no readily available record of him attending there, but cautioned that a more careful search might turn up some verification.)

But some of Beaumont's claims were found to be untrue:

He calls himself a best-selling author, a reference to the Ferguson's Guide to School to Work published in 1999.

"I wouldn't call it a best seller," says Ferguson editor Andy Morkes. He says the Chicago publishing company, which provides career guides for schools and libraries, can't divulge sales figures for the book. But he says it never went to a second printing and he notes that the firm's top seller -- an encyclopedia of careers -- has sold about 25,000 copies. And actually, the book Beaumont claimed to have written was a compilation of information taken from federal School to Work office bulletins.

Beaumont calls himself an "education practitioner and visionary for the next century." He also claims to serve in a "top" position on a UNESCO task force. But the head of that task force -- ironically, an effort to protect children from the dangers of the Internet -- says his name doesn't even ring a bell. Attorney Parry Aftab, the head of the committee Beaumont claims to be on, says, "Even if I had appointed him to something, we haven't heard a thing from him since."

Beaumont and the anti-bully hotline also claim to have a host of influential people and organizations backing him. Many of them say it isn't so.

At the top of the organization's board of directors list (a December 20, 2000, document notarized by Beaumont himself) is the name of former Arizona governor Rose Mofford. Her name and Rod Beaumont's are set apart from the rest, as if they co-chair the board.

But Mofford says she never agreed to serve on the board.

She remembers chatting with Beaumont last spring about his Safe Schools, Safe Students idea -- initially a plan to disseminate a newsletter helping schools get more secure. She says the idea seemed like a good one and she told Beaumont that "I would certainly be glad to help . . . they didn't say anything about being on the board."

Mofford says she hasn't heard from the group since and didn't know it had evolved into an anti-bully hotline. Had it asked her to be a director, she says, she would have declined. She's already on the board of 35 other groups.

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