In an October 4 editorial, The Washington Times advanced the discredited falsehood that Department of Education official Kevin Jennings “violated Massachusetts law” over 20 years ago by “covering up” the “sexual abuse” of one of his students and also advanced the manufactured link between Jennings and the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) because of Jennings' past praise of gay rights activist Harry Hay. In fact, the student in question has confirmed that he was, indeed, 16 years old at the time of the incident, which is -- and was -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts, and in the 1997 speech in which Jennings mentioned Hay, Jennings' praise was of Hay's work as an early gay rights activist and had nothing to do with NAMBLA.
Wash. Times: Jennings had “knowledge about the sexual abuse of a high school sophomore”
From the October 4 Washington Times editorial:
For more than a 1 1/2 weeks [sic] now, The Washington Times has tried unsuccessfully to get the Obama administration to answer questions about the controversies surrounding Kevin Jennings, the president's “safe schools czar.” On Wednesday, Mr. Jennings released a five-sentence statement regarding his knowledge about the sexual abuse of a high school sophomore named Brewster when he was a teacher at the teenager's school. After repeated denials and backpedaling, Mr. Jennings finally halfheartedly admitted this week that perhaps covering up sex between an adult and a high school student might not have been totally appropriate. “I can see how I should have handled this situation differently,” he said.
This week's meager statement answered no important questions, and the evidence we have reported indicates that Mr. Jennings' behavior violated Massachusetts law. The teacher was obligated to report suspected abuse. That he didn't in at least one case reveals outrageous judgment on Mr. Jennings' part.
The student has confirmed that he was 16, which is -- and was -- MA age of consent
Student: I “was of legal consent at the time.” The former student at the center of the Fox News-fueled Jennings controversy, whom Jennings has referred to as “Brewster,” provided Media Matters for America with the following statement:
Since I was of legal consent at the time, the fifteen-minute conversation I had with Mr. Jennings twenty-one years ago is of nobody's concern but his and mine. However, since the Republican noise machine is so concerned about my “well-being” and that of America's students, they'll be relieved to know that I was not “inducted” into homosexuality, assaulted, raped, or sold into sexual slavery.
In 1988, I had taken a bus home for the weekend, and on the return trip met someone who was also gay. The next day, I had a conversation with Mr. Jennings about it. I had no sexual contact with anybody at the time, though I was entirely legally free to do so. I was a sixteen year-old going through something most of us have experienced: adolescence. I find it regrettable that the people who have the compassion and integrity to protect our nation's students are themselves in need of protection from homophobic smear attacks. Were it not for Mr. Jennings' courage and concern for my well-being at that time in my life, I doubt I'd be the proud gay man that I am today.
The student's license shows he was 16 at the time. Media Matters obtained a copy of the student's driver's license, which appears edited below in order to protect his identity:
Jennings' attorney: Conversation was “with a sixteen-year-old student”; “no factual basis” that Jennings was “aware of any sexual victimization of any student.” In an August 3, 2004, letter, Constance M. Boland of the law firm Nixon Peabody -- which represented the organization that Jennings ran -- wrote that the “conversation” Jennings had was with “a sixteen-year-old student” and that there “is no factual basis whatsoever for” the “claim that Mr. Jennings engaged in unethical practices, or that he was aware of any sexual victimization of any student, or that he declined to report any sexual victimization at any time.” [Boland letter, 8/3/04]
Massachusetts age of consent is -- and was at the time -- 16. As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, Massachusetts law then and now provides that the age of consent is 16.
Wash. Times claimed: "[T]he evidence ... indicates that Mr. Jennings violated Massachusetts law" by not reporting “sex between an adult and a high school student”
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]
Wash. Times advanced manufactured Jennings-NAMBLA link
From the October 4 Washington Times editorial:
The tale gets even more troubling. On Oct. 25, 1997, at a conference for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Mr. Jennings stated, “One of the people that's always inspired me is Harry Hay.” The late Hay was a “gay-rights” activist most notorious for supporting the North American Man Boy Love Association. In 1983, speaking in support of NAMBLA, Hay claimed: "[I]f the parents and friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what 13-, 14-, and 15-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world."
Jennings' 1997 speech: Nothing to do with NAMBLA
Jennings reportedly said he was inspired by Hay, “who started the first ongoing gay rights groups in America ... the Mattachine Society.” Peter LaBarbera, president of a group that seeks to “expos[e] and counter the homosexual activist agenda,” published a transcript of Jennings' 1997 remarks at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's (GLSEN) mid-Atlantic conference that LaBarbera said was reprinted from the Lambda Report. In that speech, Jennings said, “One of the people that's always inspired me is Harry Hay, who started the first ongoing gay rights groups in America. In 1948, he tried to get people to join the Mattachine Society." Jennings' remarks include no mentions of NAMBLA.
Hay broadly recognized as gay rights pioneer. Upon Hay's death in October 2002, numerous obituaries (retrieved from Nexis) noted that Hay was a pioneer of the American gay rights movement -- just as Jennings noted in his 1997 speech. The New York Times noted that Hay “founded a secret organization six decades ago that proved to be the catalyst for the American gay rights movement.” The Associated Press called Hay “a pioneering activist in the gay rights movement” who founded “the Mattachine Society.” The San Francisco Chronicle stated that Hay was “considered by many to be the founder of the modern American gay rights movement.” None of the obituaries mentioned NAMBLA.