A couple of weeks ago, the Parents and Friends of Ex-gays asked the riveting question: Is Grove City College anti-ex-gay?
Now I want to know, Is PFOX anti-ex-gay? Let me explain why inquiring minds want to know.
In apparent answer to the query about GCC, the PFOX blog poster reproduced Peter LaBarbera’s call to action and the One”News”Now article about me. Because I dispute stereotypes about gays and report the research as it is, LaBarbera says I engage in “pro-homosexual activism.” Here is the crux of my crimes:
“But in the last few years, he’s basically become a pro-gay advocate who discredits the idea of change for most homosexuals,” LaBarbera explains. “He grants the idea that they can change, but he says change is very rare.
Now let’s consider PFOX. On the governing board of PFOX is Chris Doyle who is a “resident psychotherapist” at Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation. IHF recently issued an apology to the gay community for “fueling anti-gay sentiment” by stating that “change is possible.”
IHF now refers clients to a host of gay-affirming organizations and resources, including GLSEN and PFOX’s pfavorite organization, PFLAG. The PFLAG reference is especially relevant to the question – “is PFOX anti-ex-gay?” PFOX has accused PFLAG of making hateful statements about former homosexuals. Now that a PFOX board member is a principle figure in an organization that refers people to an organization that makes hateful statements about former homosexuals, then it seems reasonable to ask if PFOX is anti-itself.
I also must wonder if One”News”Now and AFTAH are getting soft on gays. Consider the evidence.
On October 28, 2011, IHF made their apology for “fueling anti-gay sentiment” and posted their references to GLSEN and PFLAG on their website. To date, One”News”Now has ignored the story. And even more puzzling is the absence of an AFTAH-inspired call for PFOX to explain how their board member’s open advocacy of pro-homosexual, anti-ex-gay advocacy fits within their mission. Almost a month has gone by and this blatant pro-homosexualist initiative at IHF has gone unchecked! What is wrong with this picture!? TAKE ACTION! DO NOTHING! CALL NO ONE!
P.S. Sorry, I got a little hyperbolic there at the end.
(This post from occasional contributor, clinical psychologist David Blakeslee, covers some similar territory as conservative gay blogger, GayPatriot on the Kevin Jennings controversy.)
I have been a bit agitated lately, it is probably my own problem, but instead of being internally ruminative about such sensations I decided to find some object to focus these feelings on. It didn’t take long, all I had to do was visit Warren’s blog . There I could find a few outlandish assumptions, hypocritical comments and distortions of fact to justify ventilation. Apparently that was not satisfactory enough, so I am writing this posting after a couple of years of absence (Warren, I don’t know how you do this day in and day out, your energy and integrity are deeply appreciated).
Rationalization, minimization, and justification are not scientific arguments; they are psychological defenses to ward off anxiety. Sometimes they are so effective that we feel quite calm when a grave injustice, which we should agonize about, has occurred. Instead of tossing and turning at night, struggling with headaches and pacing the floor, we sleep quite soundly. Sometimes they are so effective that the weak and the vulnerable are left without an outraged and strong protector; instead they get a philosopher, who through his mental games ends up functionally being a passive collaborator with a predator.
As noted here two days ago, Kevin Jennings made a statement regarding a student’s disclosure of involvement with an older man while Jennings was a teacher at Concord Academy. Here again is the statement:
Twenty one years later I can see how I should have handled this situation differently. 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. I would like to see the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools play a bigger role in helping to prepare teachers.
Since then, left-leaning websites, some gay advocates (although a notable exception is Gaypatriot who says Jennings should resign) and CNN have commented further on the matter, defending Jennings. At issue is dispute over Brewster/Robertson/Thompson’s age – was he 15 or 16? And does it matter?
Media Matters, parroted by CNN, asserted that Brewster was 16, not 15. If Brewster was 16, Jennings was not required to report sexual conduct because 16 was the age of consent in MA. Their reasoning is:
Massachusetts law required reporting by those with reason to believe child “is suffering serious physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse.” According to a footnote in a 1990 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case, in 1988, chapter 119, section 51A, of the General Laws of Massachusetts provided:
[Any] public or private school teacher … who, in his professional capacity shall have reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of eighteen years is suffering serious physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse inflicted upon him including sexual abuse … shall immediately report such condition to the department by oral communication and by making a written report within forty-eight hours after such oral communication …
Jennings’ attorney: Book passage does not indicate that Jennings had reason to believe student was being abused. In the letter, Boland stated, “Nowhere in the book does Mr. Jennings state that he understood the student was being abused of victimized, or that he suffered injury from any abuse.” Boland added, “Based on the plain meaning of the words in the book, it is clear that Mr. Jennings had no ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that the student was being abused in any way. Because there was no abuse and no ‘sexual victimization,’ the statute does not apply.” [Boland letter, 8/3/04]
Media Matters accuses Politico’s Mike Allen and Fox News of not reporting all of the facts in this instance. While they may be correct about some omissions, they also make omissions in their reporting. For instance, Media Matters does not include all of what Boland said on behalf of Jennings.
They left out the phrase, “…or indeed that the student was even having sex.” In light of Jennings’ 2006 book where he was advising Robertson on safe sex, the description from his book, One Teacher in Ten, where Brewster disclosed a relationship with an “older man” in Boston, and the 2000 speech where Brewster went home with someone he met in a Boston bathroom, this statement from Boland now seems misleading. Media Matters also ignored the audio of the 2000 speech where Jennings himself said that the boy was 15 years old. He also said that Brewster was an advisee and that he learned about the Boston trip early in his first year. Here is what he said about it:
And in my second job I wasn’t sure how I wanted to deal with that. And I was in my first month on the job and I had an advisee named Brewster. Brewster was missing a lot of classes; he was in the boarding school so I said to his teacher, his first period teacher, I said, ‘next time Brewster misses a class I want you to tell me that he’s missed that class and, uh, I will go find him.’ So I went and found Brewster one morning when she had called and he was asleep in his dorm room. And I said, “Brewster, what are you doing in there asleep?” And he said, “Well, I’m tired.” And I said, “Well we all are tired and we all got to school today.” And he said, “Well I was out late last night.” And I said, “What were you doing out late on a school night.” And he said, “Well, I was in Boston…” Boston was about 45 minutes from Concord. So I said, “What were you doing in Boston on a school night Brewster?” He got very quiet, and he finally looked at me and said, “Well I met someone in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him.” High school sophomore, 15 years old. That was the only way he knew how to meet gay people. I was a closeted gay teacher, 24 years old, didn’t know what to say. Knew I should say something quickly so I finally said, My best friend had just died of AIDS the week before. I looked at Brewster and said, “You know, I hope you knew to use a condom.” He said to me something I will never forget, He said “Why should I, my life isn’t worth saving anyway.”
Why did they omit those details? Surely, they are relevant to the defense they are trying to mount.
I don’t know how old Brewster was or even if there is a Brewster. Only Mr. Jennings know this and up to now, he has not disclosed much. I can understand some of this. It is not uncommon for speakers to disguise details of case studies in order to preserve confidentiality. Age might be one of those details. Readers will have to judge which account seems more plausible.
The credibility of statements in the Boland letter is now open to review given the 2000 speech, the 2006 book and the statement from Mr. Jennings this week. I am puzzled that Media Matters (then followed by CNN and others) would rely so heavily on it and ignore other relevant information.
The other age-related wrinkle here is the requirement that mandated reporters (teachers in public and private schools are mandated reporters) notify the Department of Social Service if they have
reasonable cause to believe…that a child under the age of eighteen years is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse inflicted upon him which causes harm or substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare including sexual abuse…
Everybody seems to stipulate that if the boy was 15 then a report should have been made. However, if not, then what? One would need to make a judgement call about the nature of the disclosures and whether they are causing the child under 18 to experience injury. Given the repeated statements that the boy was suicidal, something was not right and needed some attention. What was causing the boy’s distress?
We may be dealing with an issue of attribution. Apparently Jennings believed the boy’s suicidal thoughts were coming from a lack of acceptance of his sexual attractions. Many gay defenders of Jennings point to this as quite likely and have an intuition to relate to his 1987/1988 response. However, others may believe the suicidal thoughts derive from his youthful sexual behavior and possible remorse or dissonance. Some might wonder if he was struggling with his sexual identity. Still others might suggest mental illness or some combination of all three. Different attributions about the cause of the behavior will lead to different actions on the part of the teacher. It is difficult enough for people who are trained in mental health to make these calls, it surely is above the pay grade of an inexperience teacher to be certain. The law says that suspicion of abuse is needed not certainty. With that in mind, Jennings admission that he should have sought consultation is a step in the right direction.
There is a larger issue here which I will take up in future post. When ideological differences are great, how can we develop policies and procedures which help offset our biases? Brewster is like a Rorschach test for projecting adult recollections of adolecent angst. Each of us look at the situation and think, ‘he needed this or he needed that.’ As many have opined through the years when reflecting on GLSEN, perhaps what adolecents need is not to be turned into a political movement but guided in light of their individual needs.
UPDATE: Media Matters apparently is the PR arm of the Department of Education and has released what they say is a photo of Brewster’s license. MM however, continues to avoid dealing with what Jennings said to his own constituents about the boy’s age.
UPDATE #2: A Brewster has come forward to express support for Jennings. CNN has the summary and Media Matters has the details, including a Facebook conversation between FOX News reporter, Maxim Lott and Brewster. The account provided by this Brewster is confusing when trying to reconcile it with Jennings’ past accounts and the recent statement that he should have handled the situation differently. While Media Matters has focused on the exact age of the boy, the group has not addressed the discrepancies in past accounts. They accuse FOX of wildly inaccurate reporting but fail to note that the reporting was based on Jennings own statements.
In an op-ed dated today but available online over the weekend, the Washington Times assails Obama safe-schools appointee, Kevin Jennings for his handling of a 15-year old student’s sexual revelations when Jennings was a young teacher.
According to Mr. Jennings’ own description in a new audiotape discovered by Fox News, the 15-year-old boy met the “older man” in a “bus station bathroom” and was taken to the older man’s home that night.
FOX News has also reported on this and pointed to that recording. That audiotape was recorded by someone who attended a speech Jennings gave in Iowa in 2000 and then given to me. The relevant clip is here. You can read more about Brewster and the controversy in the article, Remembering Brewster and in this prior post on the topic.
There is another wrinkle to this story. It appears that Brewster had a name change in 2006 for Jennings book, Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son: A Memoir. Below, I have excerpted the passages in the book where he discusses a boy named Robertson, who has issues like Brewster. The first two selections are from pages 161-162. Jennings, a young teacher at Concord School, answers the boy’s concerns in the same way as he answered Brewster. Continue reading “The saga of Kevin Jennings and Brewster: Enter Robertson”
Big surprise, you elect a liberal president, you get liberal cabinet secretaries who in turn appoint liberal people to their departments. I can’t say I was surprised that Education Secretary Arne Duncan appointed Kevin Jennings, founder of GLSEN and co-chair of LGB fundraising for Barack Obama to be the assistant deputy secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools inside the Department of Education.
That said, I am concerned about this appointment. While in recent years I have warmed to the reasonable objectives of GLSEN which include violence prevention, I am not convinced that Mr. Jennings is the guy for this position. As a backdrop for my concerns about his views, readers should read the 2005 paper, Remembering Brewster.
In this paper, I note that Jennings told two different stories about an encounter with a student, Brewster, at Concord Academy in Massachusetts. In 2004, Mr. Jennings was accused by then chair of the NEA Republican Educators Caucus, Diane Lenning, of failing to report a potential abuse situation involving Brewster. At the time, Mr. Jennings denied the allegation and demanded via detailed letter from his lawyer that Mrs. Lenning retract the accusations. On point, the letter read:
Nowhere in the book does Mr. Jennings state he understood that the student was being abused or victimized, or that he suffered injury from any abuse, or indeed that the student was even having sex.
She never retracted and he never sued.
Later, I was given a tape of a 2000 lecture by Mr. Jennings discussing Brewster. He was speaking to a GLSEN rally in Iowa. In that lecture, he indicated that Brewster was involved in sexual behavior of some kind. After being informed that Brewster was not in class, Jennings went to find him in his room. Here is the relevant part of the talk (click link for the mp3 – you might have to turn up the volume):
And I said, “Brewster, what are you doing in there asleep?” And he said, “Well, I’m tired.” And I said, “Well we all are tired and we all got to school today.” And he said, “Well I was out late last night.” And I said, “What were you doing out late on a school night.” And he said, “Well, I was in Boston…” Boston was about 45 minutes from Concord. So I said, “What were you doing in Boston on a school night Brewster?” He got very quiet, and he finally looked at me and said, “Well I met someone in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him.” High school sophomore, 15 years old. That was the only way he knew how to meet gay people. I was a closeted gay teacher, 24 years old, didn’t know what to say. Knew I should say something quickly so I finally said, “My best friend had just died of AIDS the week before.” I looked at Brewster and said, “You know, I hope you knew to use a condom.” He said to me something I will never forget, He said “Why should I, my life isn’t worth saving anyway.”
If Jennings did not believe he was sexually active, then why advise him to use a condom? His handling of this incident, subsequence defense and alternate stories about it concern me. I have posted this story twice before on this blog and most commenters gay, straight, conservative or liberal agree that such an incident should be reported. I watched him refuse to answer reporter George Archibald’s question about the incident on the floor of the NEA exhibit hall. I do not think he has ever addressed the discrepancies in the accounts. I emailed GLSEN to ask for a comment in 2005 with no reply.
I may be misunderstood with this post. Let me be clear: the sexual orientation of the teacher and/or the student are not relevant to the need to get the parents, school and possibly the authorities involved in helping a troubled student in the situation Jennings described. Also, I am not disputing that GLSEN has appropriately raised awareness about bullying of GLB students; a problem which needs ongoing attention. However, I do wish the point person for school safety was someone with an unambiguous record on school-parent communication. If Mr. Jennings had said something like – ‘hey, that was a rookie mistake, I should have alerted someone about a depressed 15 year old boy being 45 minutes away from his boarding school without permission having sex, perhaps with an adult,’ then I would not have quite the same reaction. Instead, he denied what he earlier acknowledged and threatened to sue.
UPDATE: Some have asked me to verify Jennings position as fund raiser for Obama. Here is a video with Jennings and co-chair Joan Garry introducing Bill Clinton at an Obama fundraiser.