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?

"That's news to me," says Beaumont. He says Turner made arrangements with Mofford and he believed she and two legislators had agreed to be on the board.

Those two legislators resigned from their posts last month. State Senator Mary Hartley says she met with Beaumont last spring as well, checked with the state of Delaware (where his organization is incorporated) to make sure it had no complaints about Beaumont's group, and agreed to be a director. At the time, she says, it seemed like sending informative newsletters out to schools and district board members was a helpful idea. But, like others contacted by New Times, she says she never attended any board meetings (even though corporate bylaws require an annual meeting every July 15) and barely had time to read all their e-mails. She resigned her post about two weeks before New Times called to verify that she was on the board.

State Representative Linda Binder resigned from the board right after Hartley did. Her spokesperson says Binder had no idea she was listed as a director, she knew nothing about the anti-bully hotline and that she submitted her letter of resignation as soon as she found out the group considered her a board member.

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.

Shane Doan, the Phoenix Coyotes right wing, comes next on the list of board members. The poster boy of the anti-bully Web site, Doan often is touted in press releases as the group's celebrity spokesman, a great guy who cares about kids, a close ally in the war against bullies, someone who has been working diligently to raise sorely needed funds.

He was featured in Safe Schools press releases in mid-January as being the source of a fund-raising challenge between his fans and those of Joshua Schwartz, an 18-year-old unknown "teen spokesperson" from Pennsylvania. The challenge, according to the anti-bully news releases, went like this: The first one to raise $10,000 by January 31 won, but if Schwartz's fans raised more, Doan would match that amount up to $50,000.

(A Web site listing of donations shows Schwartz raised nothing and Doan's fan club contributed $100.)

But Rich Nairn, vice president of media and player relations for the Coyotes, says nearly all of those claims are untrue. He says Doan was surprised to read about his idea for the fund raiser in press releases provided by New Times.

Doan may be a great guy who wants to help kids. And he did help launch a computer-based peer mediation program with Safe Schools and First Frontier, a Canadian child-help group, more than a year ago. But he is not one of their directors, he never issued any fund-raising challenge, nor did he pledge up to $50,000. And he was bewildered by a press release announcing an hourlong news conference in Philadelphia in the near future featuring him and Schwartz.

"He doesn't have a current relationship with the organization," says Nairn. "I think they are just using his name to further their cause."

After speaking to New Times last week, Nairn contacted the Safe Schools group, who then posted a news release on their Web site announcing Doan's "retirement" from his role as spokesperson for the organization.

Beaumont, who says Doan was "understandably miffed," blamed a breakdown in communication due to a change in Coyotes ownership.

Two supporters of the anti-bully group are also listed as board members. Stan Turner, the former employee who believes the group is accomplishing important things, says he did agree to be a director long ago. But he was not aware that the group still considered him one. And Bill Walz, Superintendent of Schools in Hoonah, Alaska (population 975), says he also accepted an invitation to be on the board. He says Rod Beaumont came to his two-school district in the fall of 1999 and put on an impressive post-Columbine training session to prepare teachers for an emergency.

He says Beaumont did an excellent job and appeared very knowledgeable. And, he says, he has a good Web site.

On that site (stopthebully.org) are other suspicious endorsements. One page includes direct quotes from British celebrities touting the hotline and Safe Schools' work. But the colorful page is a near duplicate of one that appears on the ChildLine, a U.K. hotline Beaumont says he used as a model for the Prescott version. On that British Web site, the same celebrities say the same things, only the word "ChildLine" appears in place of "Safe Schools."

The result is some bizarre endorsements by people not well-known in the U.S.

Fighter Prince Naseem Hamed, for example, says, "Please have a look at Safe Schools advice on bullying or if you want to talk, give Safe Schools helpline a call." Louise, who declares "I love Safe Schools [sic] website!" looks like she could be a young person who actually called the Prescott hotline, but she's really a British pop singer who has helped ChildLine. And one of the supporting quotes is a bit confusing because of sloppy altering. English soccer star Ian Wright implores, "Please read Safe Schools advice -- it's spot on! If you need to talk things through, ChildLine is there to help you."

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