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?

The teenagers say they come in every day after school and often on the weekends to man the phone lines. They generally put in two or three hours on weekdays and more on Saturdays.

But all are stumped when asked how many calls they usually take, say, in a two-hour shift. They just can't say. "You'll have to ask my dad," says Kat.

Pressed to give a mere estimate not of daily or total calls, but how many each of them handles on a given day -- Two? Fifty-two? -- they refuse to answer. "It's on the Internet," Kat says.

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.

Rod Beaumont also seems suddenly statistics-shy. In the hotline's early months, numbers were trumpeted in the headlines of press releases. "Student Anti-Bullying Hotline Receives Its 125,000 Contact in 35 Days; Prevents at Least 6 Suicides by Teenagers" read one. Another declared: "Crisis Hotline Tops 250,000 Contacts." And those releases always included pleas for money to expand the center's phone capacity.

But these days, Beaumont claims other people were hung up on statistics.

"Everybody wanted to focus on numbers," he says. "It's more important to focus on what is being done. If we've saved one kid from committing suicide or helped some kid stop the abuse that he'd been subjected to, that is worth more to us."

The organization hopes to expand its operations into other U.S. cities, go truly international with a Web-based chat system and embark on a national road tour in which sponsors could buy advertising space on Beaumont's Land Rover to draw attention to the hotline's efforts. But for now, Beaumont says, the group is focusing on the "critical need" for financial stability.

The latest fund-raising campaign takes a new tack. Abandoning the idea of corporate sponsorships, the group is seeking to raise $250,000 over the coming year by asking everyone touched by bullying to send in one dollar.

At the headquarters, the "peer mentors" who answer the phones and plan fund raisers are pumped. They think this idea just might work. Jared is trying to think of a catchy slogan while Kat contemplates the possibilities.

"Just a dollar from everyone in the country would be a lot of money," she says.

"Just one dollar from everybody in Prescott would be a lot of money," Jared adds.

In front of them, a multi-line telephone aimed at eradicating bullies, saving lives and making schools safe for students sits silent.

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