Is There Anything Safe School Czar Kevin Jennings Can Say to Defend Himself?


That Obama’s Safe School Czar Kevin Jennings has been dragged through the mud by conservatives isn’t new; they’ve been doing that since he took the post. But yesterday, after Queerty noted how terrible a job Jennings’ supporters are doing defending him, these, uh, “background points” arrived in our inbox. Curious.

Jennings, you’ll recall, is the gay former teacher who once advised a 15-year-old student at Concord Academy in Massachusetts (who came to him with news he was having a sexual relationship with an “older man”) to “use a condom,” rather than kill the relationship. (Oh, and he also founded GLSEN.) That’s provided plenty of ammunition for the Tony Perkins crowd — which we argued yesterday evolved into a different type of baseless attack.

And then Department of Education spokesman Justin Hamilton sent over these “background points and [a] statement we’ve issued” about all the hubub.

Allow us to copy/paste, because that’s what media flacks prefer:

· Kevin Jennings was 24 years old when he had the conversation with Brewster (the student).

· His leadership has been recognized by both Democrats and Republicans. Then Republican Governor William Weld appointed Kevin to an official commission.

· Kevin has a track record of accomplishment has won honors from groups such as the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of Independent Schools, the National Education Association, and the Massachusetts Counselors Association.

And then there’s the statement from Jennings, who, as an educator, should know it’s improper style to begin a sentence with a number written in digits:

21 years later, I can see how I should have handled the situation differently. I should have asked for more information and consulted medical or legal authorities. Teachers back then had little training and guidance about this kind of thing. All teachers should have a basic level of preparedness. I would like to see the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools play a bigger role in helping to prepare teachers.”

So does that make things for Jennings (official title: “Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools”) all better now? Not quite. The right will still have the fuel it needs to continue attacking a gay man working under Obama. And Jennings’ supporters (the gays?) are being asked to excuse his behavior back when he was a teacher because he “had little training and guidance” when, we know full well, had a conservative done the same thing, he wouldn’t hear the end of it from us.

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  • Sam

    OH! MY! GOD! You mean a 24 year old made a professional mistake? Did something right out of college that wasn’t exactly right? STOP! THE! PRESSES!!!

    This is such a non-story. If every political appointee had to be raked over the coals for mistakes they made in their early twenties then no one would ever make it into appointed office.

    Jennings is being targeted by homophobes specifically because he is gay. Shame on Queerty for playing along with the bigots to try to take down a man who has done more for LGBT youth than anyone else in America. You suck.

  • Adam

    It’s not really a wonder that he would not report this to the ‘authorities’. I can only imagine was assinine actions the homophobic cops of the time would have taken, if any action at all.

  • Mike in MO

    it’s not fair to say “had a conservative done the same thing, he wouldn’t hear the end of it from us” because the conservative wouldn’t have recommended he use a condom.

  • Brian Lange

    It was bad when I was told that because I was gay, I had to support failed economic policies that I knew would be harmful to our country.

    It got worse when I was told that because I was gay, I had to support weak foreign policy.

    Now that I’m being told that because I am gay, I need to defend the actions of a professional who defended a child molester, and failed to defend a child, I’m not sure I can take much more of this loonacy.

    How can we say that our sexuality is not equivalent to moral bankrupsy when we (you) behave this way. Kevin Jennins is NOT defendable.

  • naprem

    While you’re actually correct in this case, you’re really in no position to be complaining about other people’s grammar/ style/ punctuation/ spelling mistakes.

  • a. mcewen

    according to Media Matters:

    . . . Jennings’ attorney wrote in a 2004 letter that the student was 16 years old, which Jennings’ book appears to support, and that 16 is — and was at the time — the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.

    End of story as far as I am concerned.

  • mattymatt

    Mcewen is right — everyone’s missing the most important point, which is that the student had passed the age of consent. No crime was committed. I don’t know why everyone — including Queerty — is repeating this “15” number.

  • Bernard Schwartz

    So the outrage over Jennings LACK of critical thinking when advising the fifteen year old is JUST because he’s a gay man??? I think not! When I first heard the story break, there was no mention that I picked up, that he was gay. But the notion that a teacher, people in whom we place considerable trust, WOULDN’T report this RAPE, is astounding! It’s a clear-cut CRIME–Statutory Rape! Jennings exhibited an enormous lack of judgment in that case, and it’s right that he be removed from a position of this responsibility. There’s three million people in this country, is this guy the best we can come up with???

    I have gay friends, I have two relatives who are gay. Being gay has NOTHING TO DO WITH IT! I support equal rights for gays, but for the gay community to equivocate about Jennings GROSS MISCONDUCT does NOTHING to help the cause! It will ONLY serve as ammunition for the anti-gay people.

  • libhomo

    This posting is homophobic. If you don’t apologize and admit you are horribly wrong, you will seriously discredit this blog.

Comments are closed.