Conservatives are aiming to uproot
openly gay safe schools czar Kevin Jennings, a choice decried by the
far right since the Obama administration announced Jennings'
appointment as director of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.
The latest attack comes from the
conservative daily The Washington Times, the same paper that
paid a male prostitute for the sex scandal story that nearly ended
Congressman Barney Frank's career over two decades ago.
Jennings, 45, is the former executive
director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN),
a group he founded to address the issue of discrimination based on
sexual orientation in schools.
In an editorial titled Obama's Lewd
Schools Czar published Sunday, the paper asserts that Jennings
violated Massachusetts law when he “covered up” the “sexual
abuse” of one of his students and repeats the lie that Jennings has
praised the work of the North American Man-Boy Love Association
Over two decades ago while working at
the Concord Academy school in Massachusetts, Jennings counseled a
student who was having an affair with an adult male. Jennings
reportedly told the student to “use a condom.”
Conservatives pounced on the story,
calling the student a “minor” and suggesting Jennings failed to
report the sexual abuse of a minor.
In a note
published by Media Matters for America, the student, referred to
as Brewster, defended Jennings' help and unequivocally states that he
was over the age of consent in Massachusetts when he sought the
“Since I was of legal consent at the
time, the fifteen-minute conversation I had with Mr. Jennings
twenty-one years ago is of nobody's concern but his and mine.
However, since the Republican noise machine is so concerned about my
'well-being' and that of America's students, they'll be relieved to
know that I was not 'inducted' into homosexuality, assaulted, raped,
or sold into sexual slavery.”
The Washington Times editorial
goes on to repeat the lie that Jennings is unfit for his position
because he has praised NAMBLA.
“The tale gets even more troubling,”
the Times says. “On Oct. 25, 1997, at a conference for the
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Mr. Jennings
stated, 'One of the people that's always inspired me is Harry Hay.'
The late Hay was a 'gay-rights' activist most notorious for
supporting the North American Man-Boy Love Association. In 1983,
speaking in support of NAMBLA, Hay claimed: '[I]f the parents and
friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their
gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what
13-, 14-, and 15-year-old kids need more than anything else in the
In praising Hay, however, Jennings
never mentioned NAMBLA: “One of the people that's always inspired
me is Harry Hay, who started the first ongoing gay rights groups in
America. In 1948, he tried to get people to join the Mattachine
Society. It took him two years to find one other person who would
join. Well, [in] 1993, Harry Hay marched with a million people in
Washington, who thought he had a good idea 40 years before.”
The right wing's assault on Jennings
began soon after the administration announced his nomination. In a
June 2 press release, Peter LaBarbera, president of the anti-gay
group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), said: “Barack
Obama's homosexual agenda is beginning to take shape – but he has
no election mandate to impose GLSEN's radical vision of celebrating
homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender confusion in U.S. schools.
Anti-religious bigots should not be setting policy for schools –
and promoting dangerous sex and gender identities to youth is the
antithesis of 'safety'.”
LaBarbera's release adds, “men who
have sex with other men suffer from much higher rates of sexual
“Americans for Truth will educate
Americans on Jennings' and GLSEN's dangerous agenda, and we will work
with other pro-family and parental rights groups across the country
to urge that the Jennings appointment be withdrawn.”
On Wednesday, the Department of
Education issued a statement defending Jennings.
“Kevin Jennings has dedicated his
professional career to promoting school safety. He is uniquely
qualified for his job and I'm honored to have him on our team,”
Secretary Ann Duncan said.