At the end of my post yesterday on Kevin Jennings the openly Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, I indicated that I would reconsider my call for his resignation should evidence emerge that he had previously acknowledged his “wrongdoing,” by which I meant his failure to report a teenager’s sexual relationship with an adult. There is no evidence to suggest he ever even discouraged the boy from continuing his sexual relationship with the older man.
Even in a piece at left-leaning (but even-handed) Queerty critical of how conservative media has treated Jennings, they are concerned by the Obama appointee’s silence:
If Jennings “technically” had a legal obligation to report the incident, he should have. His CV is impressive, and sounds like it qualifies him for the “safe school czar” job under Obama. But it’s an insufficient answer to why, as a teacher to young people, he did not attempt to intervene to stop an underage boy from continuing an unhealthy sexual relationship — and keep that boy from becoming a victim.
While I do believe Jennings acted inappropriately in 1988 when the student approached him, I did want to cut the guy some slack for something he did early in his career. Had he expressed some regret long before he became politically active, it would add a different dimension to his past conduct. It would show this action as an aberration in an otherwise distinguished career.
But, now information has come forward suggesting that Jennings’s conduct was not an aberration, but part of a career suggesting a greater concern for the sexual liberation ideology of one segment of the gay movement than for the welfare of students. That ideology has led to reluctance of many gay activists, apparently including Jennings, to never discourage any form of sexual expression, even that involving minors.
It is a very good — and indeed essential thing–to teach children to develop a healthy attitude toward sexuality. And to that end, I favor responsible sex education courses in middle and high schools, including abstinence education (but not “abstinence only”)* provided parents are aware of the content of that curriculum. Yet, it seems Mr. Jennings advocates bypassing that parental approval.
Not just that, he has spoken warmly (on multiple occasions) of Harry Hay, a pioneering gay activist who happened to be an active member “of the North American Association for Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), which promotes the legalization of sexual abuse of young boys by older men.” Now, his praise of Hay does mean that he agreed with everything Hay had done or said. But, coupled with his silence on the student who reported his liaison with an adult, it does indicate a relatively blasé action toward sexual relationships between children and adults.
There are simply too many unanswered questions about his attitudes toward sex education and sexual relationships between adults and children. With most gay people opposing sex with minors, shouldn’t we want to see gay people in positions of leadership on education, showing the same attitude to such relationships as would a straight adult? Do we want to provide further ammunition to social conservatives, as eager as left-wing bloggers are with conservatives, to define us by our most extreme elements?
Most gay people do not condone the type of relationship Jennings appeared to countenance when he did nothing to discourage that student from having sex with an older man.
That’s not the kind of person we want in the Department of Education, least of all in an office responsible for safe schools. Nor the kind of gay man gay people should want to hold a prominent role in government.
*If readers would like me to elaborate on the difference between abstinence education and abstinence only education, I would be delighted to do so.