Under Attack from Right, Education Department's Kevin Jennings Releases Statement on Counseling Incident 21 Years Ago
Kevin Jennings, the gay founder of GLSEN who now heads the Education Department's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, has been the target of right-wing and religious groups (such as the Family Research Council) since he was named to the position. The groups accuse Jennings of promoting homosexuality in schools. Recently, they seized upon an incident involving Jennings which happened 21 years ago in which Jennings was counseling a 16 or 17-year-old student who said he was sexually involved with a man. Jennings failure to report this to authorities is now fueling the right-wing accusations that he is somehow trying to indoctrinate children into homosexuality.
FOX News has jumped on the bandwagon, of course, claiming that Jennings covered up statutory rape.
Yesterday, Jennings released a statement admitting he mishandled the incident:
“Twenty one years later I can see how I should have handled this situation differently. I should have asked for more information and consulted legal or medical authorities. Teachers back then had little training or 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.”
Education Secretary Arne Duncan also released a statement:
"Kevin Jennings has dedicated his professional career to promoting school safety. He is uniquely qualified for his job and I am honored to have him on our team."
The L.A. Times reports: "Jennings' inaction was discussed in the teaching community as far back as 2004. It is now being condemned as part of a broader critique of Jennings' fitness for the education post by conservative critics, who also accuse him of promoting homosexuality...Department spokesman Justin Hamilton said the accusation that Jennings promoted homosexuality was too ridiculous to deserve comment."
The wingnuts don't want to see any gay man in this position, much less one who has spent the better part of 20 years dedicating himself to wiping out anti-LGBT bullying and promoting tolerance in the nation's schools.