Jennings and Shimkus? To tell or not to tell…

Two unrelated items that got me thinking.

1. Rep. John Shimkus, chair of the House Committee that oversees the Page Program has taken lots of heat over his handling of suspicious communications between Mark Foley and underage boys. The Springfield (IL) Journal-Register wrote today: “Shimkus has faced criticism from both parties for not telling the other two page board members last year when the parents of a former page complained that Foley had asked their son to send him a picture of himself. Members of both parties also have said that Shimkus and others who knew about the e-mail should have conducted a more thorough investigation.”

2. Kevin Jennings and GLSEN want to be a part of a proposed White House conference on bullying. Fair enough. I disagree with GLSEN most of the time about this issue. For instance, GLSEN recently criticized a research-based bullying program being used now by the state of VA because sexual orientation was not specifically named in the curriculum. On the contrary, the Olweus program is a fine program that most often gets good results and will make most schools safer.

Seeing Kevin Jennings quoted in the context of current events made me think about how he handled a Shimkus-like issue many years ago when he was a teacher in private school. A young man, Brewster, disclosed to Mr. Jennings that he was engaged in sexual relations with an adult male. Mr. Jennings revealed this to no one at the time. A detailed summary of the Brewster stories is here.

Back to current events, Mr. Shimkus is now being widely criticized for not disclosing the Foley incident, even though, apparently the young man did not want the events disclosed.

Should Mr. Jennings have handled Brewster, the 15-16 year old boarding school charge, differently or was his Shimkus-like approach correct?

9 thoughts on “Jennings and Shimkus? To tell or not to tell…”

  1. I think I used too strong of language in trying to get my point across. I don’t actually know the precise definition of character assasination, but in any case, I am sorry I used that phrase, and I appreciate the tone of your response.

    I had just read the link to the article where go through the whole story of what Jennings did or didn’t do, said, wrote, about a student who was 15, or 16…

    What would you think if I put it this way? Sticking to discussion of the issues or ideas at hand, on their own merit, rather than the person who expresses or espouses them, will generally lead to a more civil, respectful and productive atmosphere — something we desparately need in our society.

    I care deeply about these sexual orientation issues, as you do, and I admire what I’ve seen of your contribution in this area. (You may remember my post in relation to the “ex-gay” terminology, where I shared some of my story, a couple of months ago.) But, I think there is a deeper and more fundamental dynamic at work that needs to be addressed.

    As long as we (people) continue dividing ourselves into camps, parties, positions, etc., even religious groupings if the purpose is to contend with the others, prove one’s own point/truth, and somehow PREVAIL through the FORCE of one’s words, through fear or coercion or propaganda…. then so long are we consigning humanity to being “stuck in the muck” and spinning its wheels.

    I believe that Christ (and in my beliefs, Baha’u’llah, as well) made it clear that in order to follow Him, we need to give up the “power over” way of relating to other human beings, however subtly that power may be exercised. Rather, we will truly progress by recognizing our spiritual unity as children of God and tapping into the tremendous potential of what might be called the “power with” phenomenom.

    Sometimes our strong negative reactions to others figures and their positions (which can be neatly managed and intellectualized into making a cogent, if biting, counter-argument) relates back to our own trauma earlier in life. I’ve had such reactions to listening to tapes of Dr. Nicholosi, and once when the leader of the Courage group I attend told us how/why he was speaking before the city council against the proposed ordinance that would protect gays & lesbians from discrimination (My reactions: turning off the tape in disgust, accelerated heartbeat and mental confusion, respectively).

    And I also have to wonder, which helps me to understand better, if those positions which trigger something in me, may not also arise, even if in circuitous fashion, from the other person’s childhood trauma. Come to think of it we’ve probably all been traumatized to some degree by the “power over” “lifestyle” — which reminds me of a quote from Abdu’l-Baha, son of Baha’u’llah, and appointed interpreter of His teachings:

    “The world in the past has been ruled by force and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with the feminine ideals, or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced.”

    Well, I’ve gone on too long. Thanks for giving me another chance to explain my perspective. Writing out all of this helps me in my evolution, and I am interested in how it all strikes you, if you have a chance to resond.

  2. Anon – This is a serious comment and I appreciate it. Please let me know how you feel I am engaging in character assasination. By referencing his book and public statements, I am sticking with the facts. I also have reached out to the “other side” via the sexual orientation dialogue guidelines from the First Amendment Center. I have been very supportive of those to the consternation of those on the right. But please let me know where you feel I am off.

  3. I knew Kevin Jennings in college. Nice guy. Not perfect, I’m sure. May have made a serious mistake. May have tried to save his neck and reputation (the American way..). May have learned something from it. May not have, I don’t know. But, Dr. T, I don’t think it serves your case against GLSEN and its agenda to engage in, what looks like to me, character assasination. If you have a valid point to make, and believe you do, then I don’t think you need to engage in calling the man’s character into question. Just my opinion: stick with the facts, present day. I believe that real progress on these controverial and divisive issues will occur when we learn to work together, seek common ground and consensus, and truly respect, and even befriend, those on the “other side”, even if we disagree stongly on certain issues. Best wishes.

  4. Really, I thought the point you were trying to make in your initial post was that these 2 situations where comparable. And that people who would decry Shimkus for not saying anything but not Jennings are being hypocritical.


  5. I would hesitate to make an argument that the boy “wanted” the advances of the older man, anon. I am sure the older man would want you for his lawyer. We don’t know how much older, but the point is that the boy needed more than, hey wear a condom.

  6. There are significant differences between the Jennings situation and the Shimkus one. Jennings knew who the teen was but not the adult in the situation. Shimkus knew who the adult was and could confront him directly. Further, Shimkus was made aware of the situation because of a complaint. Foley’s advances were unwanted, in the Jennings situation it seems clear the teen sought out the “older man” (btw, how much older 3-4years or 30-40?)

    I see more differences with these 2 situtations than I see similarities.

  7. The Olweus program relies on the culture of Norway. A very tolerant, educated and sophisticated people. A country where gay couples may marry, if they so chose to. Not very happy about what they do to whales, but each nation has it’s weak spot.

    And Virginia?

    Way to avoid the “gay issue” by adopting a program from a country where there is no gay issue to mention.

    You’ve also again neglected to mention, again, that at the time homosexuality — by a 16 year old, or an adult — was a crime in MA. Regardless.

    The young man didn’t come to Jennings with a tale of abuse, but did confide he had engaged in a crime. That is how it worked, in those days. Secrecy. Double standards. Hiding. It’s very easy to condemn others of a “crime” you know you’ll never commit.

    If that had been a 16 year old girl… there would be “no issue”. Because it would not have been a crime. Icky, yep. But not a crime.

    Abuse, genuine abuse, is different.

    16 year old gay youths should have … 16 year old boyfriends. That’s what we would have said to him. Actually, we have said that; on occassion.

    (But young people never listen, anyway. Tiresome, ain’t they.)

    Related, but interesting… the person who first dobbed Foley into the GOP as a sleaze-bag was… a gay man.

    Why didn’t they listen to him?

  8. In Texas, public educators are held accountable and can lose their certification to teach, for not reporting such things.


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