- The Washington Times - Friday, July 2, 2004

Leaders of two groups within the National Education Association objected yesterday to plans of union leaders to confer a human rights award tonight on the founder of a homosexual network in schools.

Heads of the NEA Republican Educators Caucus and NEA Ex-Gay Educators Caucus formally protested plans to give the award to Kevin Jennings of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), whose stated goals “extend to incorporating homosexual concepts into all curriculum.”

NEA President Reg Weaver was given a tape recording of a GLSEN conference in 2000 at Tufts University, where Mr. Jennings was keynote speaker and Massachusetts Department of Education HIV/AIDS coordinators discussed with teenage students ways to perform various homosexual acts.

The recording, made by a participant and publicly distributed, caused a public outcry and led to the dismissal of state education department employees and the state-funded GLSEN contractor.

Mr. Weaver did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Jennings, who also did not respond to interview requests, is slated to receive the 2004 Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights tonight at the NEA’s annual human rights dinner, which precedes the union’s yearly convention that starts tomorrow at the D.C. Convention Center.

The award is named for Virginia Uribe, a teacher and counselor at Fairfax High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 42 years, who developed a program to help address problems faced by homosexual students. The program was called Project 10 in honor of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey’s disputed theory that 10 percent of the population is homosexual.

In her protest letter, Diane Lenning of Huntington Beach, Calif., chairwoman of the NEA Republican Educators Caucus, asked Mr. Weaver: “Is it a good idea for NEA to honor as exemplary a teacher who engages in unethical practice?”

Mrs. Lenning said Mr. Jennings’ 1994 book, “One Teacher in 10,” shows that he “did not report sexual victimization of a student to the proper authorities.”

In the book, Mr. Jennings related advice and sympathy he gave in 1988 to a sophomore student in Concord, Mass., named Brewster, who confided emotional difficulty over his homosexual involvement “with an older man he had met in Boston.”

Child protection laws in Massachusetts required a teacher to notify child welfare authorities within 48 hours if a child under 18 “is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse inflicted upon him … including sexual abuse.”

State authorities said Mr. Jennings filed no report in 1988. “As mandatory reporters, teachers must uphold the legal requirements and report student sexual involvement with adults,” Mrs. Lenning wrote.

In a separate letter personally presented to the union president yesterday, Jeralee Smith of Riverside, Calif., head of the NEA Ex-Gay Educators Caucus, objected that “Mr. Jennings has also singled out ex-gays for particular scorn and discrimination in his public statements and writings,” which she submitted.

“Ex-gay messages have no place in our nation’s public schools,” Mr. Jennings said in one GLSEN publication. “A line has been drawn. There is no ‘other side’ when you’re talking about lesbian, gay and bisexual students.”

Mrs. Smith said: “This hostility is inconsistent with NEA’s commitment to create a safe environment for all and is very intolerant toward those who have decided not to embrace a homosexual life.”

“If we are to be truly democratic in our support of each person’s right to pursue their own happiness, then there would be no stigmatizing of any individual for choosing to leave a homosexual life or, for that matter, in choosing to reverse such a decision,” she told Mr. Weaver.

A former teacher at Concord Academy in Concord, Mass., Mr. Jennings founded GLSEN in 1990 to fight harassment and bullying of homosexuals by forming “gay-straight alliances” in schools.

According to the group’s publications, GLSEN’s mission “is about changing schools and school culture around [homosexual-bisexual-transgender] issues and people.”

Its goals “extend to … holding diversity seminars for teachers and students and ensuring that only positive discussions about homosexuality are allowed into elementary school classrooms, including kindergarten,” according to the GLSEN Web site.

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