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Jennings Former Student Proud, Thankful

As right-wingers continue to drive a campaign against Obama appointee Kevin Jennings (pictured) with accusations that he encouraged "statutory rape" while advising a former student, the student in question has come forward with a statement crediting Jennings with making him the "proud gay man" he is today.

Since being appointed as the U.S. Department of Education's director of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, Jennings has been at the center of a smear campaign, largely fed by an entry in his book One Teacher in Ten: Gay and Lesbian Educators Tell Their Stories, where he wrote about talking to a male student about the teenager's relationship with an older man.

But now, days after media watchdog Media Matters uncovered that student's drivers license and proved him to be of legal age of consent in Massachusetts at the time, the former student has come forward with a statement of support for Jennings.

"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 statement is signed "Brewster."

Right-wingers have suggested that Jennings, the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, is a poor choice to lead the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools because he is gay and admits to former drug use. Last week, Fox News got involved in the campaign against Jennings with a series of opinion pieces targeting the former educator.

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