Kudos to Jeff Schweers for his article in Sunday’s (01-17-10) FLORIDA TODAY “Students get dose of prison realities”; Jeff did his homework and reported the facts. As Larry Lawton’s business partner, I see firsthand families that have been helped and are so appreciative of Larry speaking the truth to their kids – what the parents report back is the evidence that the program works. Our goal at the Reality Check Program is to save one kid at a time.
The program is not a “save all”; it is designed to open up the minds of teens and young adults as to the consequences of bad choices, and to give parents, caregivers, educators, and counselors etc a tool to open up a dialogue to talk to young folks about how bad it can be when you go down the wrong path.
Schweers reports “Betty Dunn, Brevard Public Schools’ superintendent of student services, advised against using Reality Check after Lawton pitched the idea to the school board”. Actually, the program was never pitched to the school board. I sent a package of information and the Reality Check Program DVD to new Superintendant Dr. Brian T. Binggeli after meeting him at a Palm Bay Rotary Club meeting. I asked Dr. Binggeli to review the information, watch the video and then for the opportunity for Larry Lawton and I to meet with him to discuss opportunities for Brevard Schools and Reality Check to work together to help kids with making good choices as opposed to bad choices. After about a month, Binggeli responded that he forwarded the package to Dunn, after several months of calls and e-mails, and a reach out to School Board member Andy Ziegler; Dunn finally responded with an e-mail Memo: “While the program is well-organized and well-intentioned, it does not follow the scientific evidence-based research guidelines. Reality Check is a one-time deal which uses objectionable tactics and an ex-prisoner to present his harrowing experiences. There are no demonstrated positive outcomes in terms of reducing or preventing drug use, violence or disruptive behavior among youth that have been subjected to this program.”
Both Larry Lawton and I were quite shocked with the response as all we asked of Dr Binggeli was for School officials to look at the program and then give us an opportunity to discuss it with them. Betty Dunn never asked one question, never asked about any scientific evidence based-research, or any demonstrated positive outcomes, etc. She never communicated by phone or e-mail and never gave us any opportunity to sit with her to discuss the program and how it might be beneficial for Brevard Schools to be aware of such a program.
Needless to say that Larry Lawton and I were very disappointed with the response and Dunn’s lack of courtesy of granting a discussion about the program. I only wish that Betty Dunn would do more homework as Jeff Schweers did before abruptly dismissing something that has had a positive effect on many lives.
Joe Reilly, Vice President, Reality Check Program, firstname.lastname@example.org
My contact information:
Cell phone – 917-721-7848