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EDITORIAL: Obama appointee ignored illicit sex
Question of the Day
Five years ago, Kevin Jennings - who now is President Obama's "safe schools czar" - threatened to sue another teacher who called him "unethical" in a Washington Times news article for ignoring a legal requirement to report a student's homosexual relations with an "older man." Mr. Jennings' lawyer wrote a letter stating that there was "no factual basis whatsoever for [the] claim" and that he was not "aware of any sexual victimization of any student, or that he declined to report any sexual victimization at any time."
But if you are trying to cover something up, you should not be so foolish as to go on and blabber about it in speeches or in books. Mr. Jennings' defense collapsed last week after Fox News discovered an audio tape from 2000 of Mr. Jennings recalling his discussions with "15-year-old" Brewster "to use a condom." The tape provided more details on the student's age, indicating that a statutory rape had occurred. Mr. Jennings' lawyer's letter stated that Brewster was 16-years-old.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Jennings released a written statement conceding, "I can see how I should have handled this situation differently." He went on to say, "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."
Mr. Jennings' statement on Wednesday does not square well with the letter sent to silence the fellow teacher five years ago. While the letter portrays the accusation as completely baseless, he now has conceded to mishandling the case.
So, were his actions and inactions simply understandable mistakes? If so, why did he lie about it? And why did he threaten to sue the other teacher? And why - regardless of any legal requirements - did he not counsel the sophomore to stop having sex with the "older man"? Mr. Jennings went to Harvard University. Did college-educated teachers like Mr. Jennings in the 1990s really need training to know that adults shouldn't be having sex with teens?
The Times has uncovered evidence that Mr. Jennings may have given a second student similar advice. In his 2006 book, "Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son," Mr. Jennings refers to a student named Robertson, not Brewster as in the previous incident. All we know about Robertson's age is that he wasn't a senior, presumably implying that he was less than 18 years old, a key age because Massachusetts law mandated teachers report sexual activity between an adult and child under 18 during the years 1987 to 1995 while he was at the Concord School. Mr. Jennings' new account does not include an age for Robertson's sexual partner, and it is difficult to tell if this account is of the same incident with a different pseudonym or an entirely different student.
So, was there a second minor whom Mr. Jennings failed to protect? He only acknowledged the improper behavior with Brewster because he was caught, so there is little reason to trust him to do his job as President Obama's "safe schools czar." The White House has refused our request for comments, and Mr. Jennings isn't talking. A vague five-sentence statement saying that he "should have handled this situation differently" does not clear the air. A top presidential appointee charged with protecting students should have a record of leadership in protecting children - not covering up sex between adults and teens.
About the Author
- EDITORIAL: Ducking tolerance
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- EDITORIAL: A man for 2016
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By Michael P. Orsi
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