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Smear: Kevin Jennings (And The Obama Administration) Support Statutory Rape

September 30, 2009 10:36 pm ET

Right-wing and religious groups are positing that Kevin Jennings, appointed Assistant Deputy Secretary at the Department of Education for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, supported the statutory rape of a student during his time teaching at a boarding school in Massachusetts.

Smear

Kevin Jennings, the Assistant Deputy Secretary at the Department of Education for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, was complicit in statutory rape when he failed to report an incident early in his teaching career.  His appointment to the post also means that the Obama Administration supports child molestation.

Sources

Washington Times
Red State

Rep. Steve King

Truth

The Christian Broadcasting Network posted Mr. Jennings' 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."

Massachusetts law ALM GL ch. 265, § 23 clearly states that

"Whoever unlawfully has sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse, and abuses a child under 16 years of age, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of years or, except as otherwise provided, for any term in a jail or house of correction. A prosecution commenced under this section shall neither be continued without a finding nor placed on file."

From a 2004 letter, written by Mr. Jennings' lawyer:

"Your wholly unfounded allegations are based on a distortion of an excerpt from a book written by Mr. Jennings and a misconstruction of the language of a Massachusetts statute.  The law referenced in the article provides that if a teacher has 'reasonable cause to believe that a child...is suffering serious physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse...' then he must report such abuse either to his supervisors or to certain government authorities.  (Mass. General Laws, ch. 335 § 51A. (1988)).  You contend that Mr. Jennings allegedly violated this provision because in 1988 he failed to report his conversation with a sixteen-year-old student, who told Mr. Jennings of his 'involvement' with a man in Boston.  You are wrong.

"Nowhere in the book does Mr. Jennings state that he understood the student was being abused or victimized, or that he suffered injury from any abuse, or indeed that the student was even having sex.  Based on the plain meaning of the words in the book, it is clear that Mr. Jennings has no 'reasonable cause to believe' that the student was being abused in any way.  Because there was no abuse and no 'sexual victimization,' the statue does not apply.  Thus, Mr. Jennings had no duty to report anything to anyone."

*Note - there is audio of Mr. Jennings saying the student was 15 at the time, but the above legal letter show him to have been 16.

**UPDATE:

From MediaMatters.org:

The former student at the center of the Fox News fueled Jennings controversy has 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.

- Brewster

From MediaMatters.org:

Media Matters for America has exclusively obtained the Massachusetts drivers' license of the student confirming that at the time of the incident, he was at least sixteen years of age -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.

Jennings' 2006 memoir, Mama's Boy, Preachers Son, makes clear that he began teaching at Concord Academy, the student in questions school, in late August or September 1987.

Additionally, in his 1994 book, One Teacher in Ten: Gay and Lesbian Educators Tell Their Stories, Jennings described the student as "a sophomore boy who I came to know in 1987, my first year of teaching at Concord Academy, in Concord, Massachusetts."

The following scanned image of the student's current drivers' license has been heavily redacted to protect his identity.

This should put to rest claims made by Fox News and other conservatives that Jennings covered up "statutory rape" or "molestation." To continue reporting such reckless speculation is at best willful disregard for the facts and at worst journalistic malpractice.



 


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