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Conservatives Target Jennings

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Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network and President Barack Obama's assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, is under fire from social conservative groups for the way he handled a conversation with a student about being gay when he was a 24-year-old teacher.

In his 1994 book One Teacher in Ten, Jennings detailed a situation in 1988 in which a colleague brought in a high school sophomore (whom he calls "Brewster") to speak with him about having a gay relationship.

From the book: "Brewster squirmed at the prospect of telling, and we sat silently for a short while. On a hunch, I suddenly asked 'What's his name?' Brewster's eyes widened briefly, and then out spilled a story about his involvement with an older man he had met in Boston. I listened, sympathized, and offered advice. He left my office with a smile on his face that I would see every time I saw him on the campus for the next two years, until he graduated."

Jennings later disclosed at a GLSEN conference in 2000 that he knew the boy was having sex with the man, according to ABC.

Critics say Jennings should have reported the relationship to the authorities since it involved an older man and a minor. Jennings's handling of the situation has been questioned in the past, but social conservatives have taken aim at Jennings ever since his appointment to the Department of Education earlier this year. The Family Research Council, for instance, launched a "Stop Kevin Jennings" campaign shortly thereafter.

Jennings issued the following statement Wednesday: "Twenty-one years later, I can see how I should have handled the situation differently. I should have asked for more information and consulted medical or legal authorities. Teachers back then had little training and 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."

Arne Duncan, secretary of the Department of Education, also issued a statement: "Kevin Jennings has dedicated his professional career to promoting school safety. He is uniquely qualified for his job and I am honored to have him on our team."


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