There are times when a critic chimes in in a civil tone in the comment section, adding a wrinkle to the story under consideration (in the post at hand) that causes me to reconsider my conclusion. Such was the care Jody took in distinguishing the era when the teen confided in then-teacher Kevin Jennings that he had been having sex with an adult from the world today Then, there weren’t the support groups we now have. Had the boy reported this to the authorities, this might have forced the kid out, making his sexuality known and putting him in the spotlight.
Fair points. It may have hurt the teenager more had his case become public.
And while that comment (and others in a similar vein) have caused me to reconsider my view, after considerable thought I return to my original conclusion: Jennings should resign from his position in the federal Department of Education.
Had this story come out because a friend in whom he had confided revealed it, I might be less inclined to see him leave his current post. But, recall that he volunteered this information in a book and in a public conference. His references to the story indicate he thought he handled the situation properly. Not once in the statements he made before this week (that I could find online*) does he even say (or appear to suggest) that he should have handled the situation differently (as he did in his statement on Tuesday).
It is particularly troubling that he did not discourage the boy from having sex with adults. If reporting the incident might have created undue hardship on the student, why not then warn him both about the dangers of unsafe sex as well as about the perils of having sex with men you meet in public lavatories. He could inform the boy that men who have sex with teens usually take advantage of them, likely causing great emotional pain and creating psychological problems which may well plague him into adulthood.
That he would continue to write about the incident –sharing it with a mass audience — without showing any remorse, any second thoughts suggests he oblivious to the psychological issues. Such encounters leave emotional scars. And didn’t we read about those scars when the Catholic Church continued to allow priests who had molested altar boys to continue to preside over parishes?
We all make mistakes in life and often handle situations which, upon further reflection, we believe we should have handled differently. That Mr. Jennings didn’t reconsider his actions with the boy he called “Brewster,” while repeatedly talking about it until the publicity of those actions could hurt his career speaks to his unfitness to serve in the Department of Education.
It’s unfortunate that left-wing bloggers have been slurring those who have been criticizing Jennings’s conduct, calling them “anti-gay.” Hardly. Gay people should want our leaders to protect gay teenagers from predatory adults. We should want them to develop a healthy attitude toward sexuality. It’s not anti-gay to criticize Jennings’s actions. Instead, it shows concern for the welfare of a gay teen.
If it’s inappropriate or bigoted to criticize Jennings, then the whole hullabaloo over the Catholic Church’s failure to prevent pedophiliac priests from having contact with young boys was nothing more than a tempest in a teapot.
*If such a statement exists, it would make the case for keeping him stronger.