Another Scandal-Scarred Czar Is Born
Meet Kevin Jennings, the man now in charge of safety for America's government-run schools. He begins his reign as "safe schools czar" like many Obama appointees -- with an awkward declaration about previous transgressions related to his new employment.
From ABC's Political Punch Blog, we read:
Jennings today issued a statement saying, “Twenty-one years later I can see how I should have handled the situation differently. I should have asked for more information and consulted legal or medical 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.”
The "situation," or "this kind of thing" as he calls it, refers to Jennings' days as a private school teacher in the spring of 1988 when a 15-year-old student confessed to him that he had engaged in homosexual acts with an adult stranger he had met at a city bus station. Jennings "listened, sympathized, and offered advice" to the youth, but that was it.
Let's put this in context. In the late 1980s AIDS diagnoses were skyrocketing, with roughly 40,000 cases reported in the U.S. in 1988 alone and 25,000 deaths. In his 1994 book One Teacher in Ten, Jennings acknowledged telling this teen that his own "best friend" had just died of AIDS. Jennings also said the teen had indicated he had not worn a condom.
There's no doubt that Jennings understood the risk of infection. But he let the kid walk.
Now Kevin Jennings, our "safe schools czar," wants us to believe that a lack of training "back then" prevented him from acting to protect the health and safety of the youth who had been been the victim of statutory rape.
In the spring of 1988, when Jennings chatted with the boy he calls "Brewster," USA Today reported that new studies showed almost everyone infected with the AIDS virus would get the usually-fatal disease (March 14, 1988, Section 4D). The papers carried frequent headlines about the illness. But apparently Jennings wants us to believe that a lack of teacher training curriculum caused his criminal negligence regarding the safety of this child.
Yes, the word is "criminal." Massachusetts law made teachers mandatory reporters of any sex act between an adult and a child under 18. Jennings didn't report it.
He indicates that only now, 21 years later, does he recognize the error of his ways. But does he really? Look at his statement again:
Teachers back then had little training and guidance about this kind of thing. All teachers should have a basic level of preparedness.
That's not a confession with remorse or repentance. That's an explanation that implies that you and I would have done the same thing if we had walked in Jennings shoes.
Then he takes it to the next level of audacity. Jennings turns his own despicable behavior into a "strength" on his job application and a raison d'être for his new position:
I would like to see the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools play a bigger role in helping to prepare teachers.
Let's be clear: Kevin Jennings let a potentially terminally-ill minor and a victim of rape walk out of his office, and Jennings never reported the incident to the boy's parents, the school nurse, the police, or anyone who might help protect this child. This Kevin Jennings is President Obama's new "safe schools czar."
Consider the implications.
Is the United States suffering from such a dearth of qualified applicants for this position that the president couldn't find someone who lacked a track record of child endangerment? Can you picture this man traveling the country as the president's emissary for safety in our schools?
So egregious is this appointment, it's hard to imagine a worse pick. It's almost as if the White House is intentionally pushing the limits until we no longer feel outrage.
It reminds me of a scene from the film Broadcast News, ironically released in 1987 -- just months before Kevin Jennings' counseling session with "Brewster" -- in which Albert Brooks' character talks to Holly Hunter's character about her other love interest, Tom:
Tom, while being a very nice guy, is the devil.
When Hunter reacts with shock, Brooks says:
What do you think the devil's going to look like if he's around? C'mon, no one's going to be taken in by a guy with a long, red, pointy tail! He will be attractive. He'll be nice and helpful. He'll get a job where he influences a great, God-fearing nation. He'll never do an evil thing. He'll never deliberately hurt a living thing. He'll just -- bit by little bit -- lower our standards where they're important.
I would hate to think that a great nation will stand idly by as a man with a record of showing more concern for lifestyle tolerance than child safety draws his salary from our paychecks and gets gilded business cards that say "Director of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools."
President Obama, fire Kevin Jennings now.