by Peter Sprigg
December 16, 2009
Several weeks after radical homosexual activist Kevin Jennings was appointed to head the Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools in the Department of Education, FRC released a detailed paper listing seven reasons why Mr. Jennings is unfit for this post. One of those seven charges was, By his own account, Jennings failed to protect the safety of a homosexual student he once counseled when working as a teachera student who told Jennings (according to Jennings own account) that I met somebody in the bus station bathroom and went home with him.
Even though Jennings himself issued a statement in September admitting, I should have handled the situation differently, the liberal website Media Matters seems determined to keep arguing that Jennings did nothing wrong. In particular, they have focused on the very narrow issue (which has been raised by Jennings own account of the incident) of whether Jennings might have violated mandatory reporting laws, which impose a legal requirement upon teachers to report suspected sexual abuse of minors to the authorities.
Media Matters appears to be operating on the assumption that consensual sexual relations between a teenaged boy and a much older adult man can only be considered abuse if they violate statutory rape lawsthat is, if the teen is below the legal age of consent, which in Massachusetts is 16. Media Matters claims to have located the actual boy (now a grown man) involved in the incident, and to have proven that he was 16 years old at the time. This is the very thin reed on which Media Matters is resting its defense of Jenningsan argument, in essence, that the boy was 16 so everythings OK!
Yesterday, they attacked a new video about Jennings that FRC recently released. I would point out that in the narration of the film (as Media Matters even quoted), we said the boy was “believed to be 15 or 16.” But, as was carefully documented in our June paper, the source of the information that the boy was 15 wasKevin Jennings! How do we know he said this? There is a recording of his voice saying that the boy was 15. Jennings has told other versions of the story in which he says the boy was 16, but the fact that his several versions of this story are mutually incompatible proves only one thing with absolute certaintyJennings is a liar (or to put it more generouslyhe has fictionalized the story for dramatic effect). And Jennings has refused to answer questions or clarify the inconsistencies in his accounts of the incident.
As to the mandatory reporting issue—if Jennings believed (even wrongly) that the boy was 15 (as he has been recorded saying he did), then Jennings clearly acted in willful disregard of the mandatory reporting law. The boy that Media Matters claims to have found also says he did not actually have sex with the man he met in the bus station. But Jennings clearly believed he did have sex—otherwise, why would he have told the boy (again, according to his own account), “I hope you knew to use a condom”? And why would the boy himself have responded, Why should I, my life isnt worth saving anyway? (this line is the dramatic highlight in Jennings recounting of the story). Again, the issue here is not what the boy didit is what Jennings believed, what action Jennings took based on those beliefs, how Jennings has described those actions, and what those actions and words reveal about Jennings own ethical standards and commitment to the safety of Americas schoolchildren.
Its also important to note is that the age requirements in the mandatory reporting law do not specifically track the age of consent in the statutory rape law. A teacher is required to report any “abuse” of a child who is under eighteennot just one under sixteen. Now perhaps Jennings believed (and perhaps legal authorities would even agree) that a consensual act by a teen above the age of consent could not be considered “abuse,” but that is a matter of judgment. The mere fact that a child is 16 does not mean that mandatory reporting laws do not apply.
All of what I have said applies even if we accept at face value Media Matters’ claim to have found the actual boy in the incident and his claims regarding his age and what happened. Of course, if this was a legal case, the witness would have to come forward and testify in open court and be cross-examined, not hide behind a cloak of anonymity. Family Research Council, by contrast, has used only publicly available writings, documents, and sources in everything we have said about Jennings.
One final pointMedia Matters quotes one writer who describes psychologist Paul Cameron as founder of the Family Research Council. Camerons organization is called the Family Research Institute, and Dr. Cameron has never been affiliated with Family Research Council.
Its an easy mistake to make, given the similarity in the namesbut its nevertheless a careless one for a column that bears the heading, FactCheck.