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How Much Sexual Assault Will Be Tolerated?

Posted By Rory Cooper On October 1, 2009 @ 11:54 am In Education | Comments Disabled

This week, we saw scores of Hollywood liberals rushing to the defense of Roman Polanski [1], a man who has admitted to sexually assaulting a 13 year old girl in 1977 and running from justice ever since.  The most cited excuses were: It was a long time ago; she forgave him (after a large civil settlement); the judge was too strict and the most concerning…he said it was consensual.  Whoopi Goldberg went as far as to not call it a “rape-rape [1]” and rationalize that many other cultures find sexual intercourse between a 44 year old man and a 13 year old girl perfectly acceptable–which ones she didn’t say.  But this all just a case of Hollywood being Hollywood, right?  They have looser morals in la-la land, and here in reality, the sexual assault of teenagers is not acceptable, right? Nope. A senior official in the Obama administration responsible for child safety has been exposed to have ignored child sex abuse when he was a high school teacher, and yet retains the confidence of the Secretary of Education.

Yesterday, ABC News’ Jake Tapper reported on Kevin Jennings [2], who is informally known as “Safe Schools Czar [3].” His formal role is as Head of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.  Clearly this is an administration role that is best suited for someone who has spent a career protecting students and creating safe environments for children.  However, in Jennings’ own book “One Teacher in Ten” he recounts a story where a 15 year old student confided in him that he had a sexual relationship with a much older man he had met a bus station bathroom. Jennings only reaction to this news was to ask if the boy used a condom and to exchange smiles with the young boy for the remaining two years of his high school education.

This exchange happened in 1988 while Jennings was a teacher at the Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. A New York Times article in January, 1988 [4] examined the growing number of cases of child sex abuse in Massachusetts following the enactment of a state law in 1983, making it mandatory to report the abuse.  Prosecutors said the influx of cases strongly reflected “both the need for a coordinated statewide response to abuse of children and the failure of some judges and others to treat the sexual abuse of children as a serious crime.”

In fact, in December 1987, Peter K. Gunness, the headmaster of a private school in Massachusetts–Buckingham, Brown and Nichols–was prosecuted for doing exactly what Mr. Jennings did the next year [4], by failing to report a known incidence of child sex abuse.  Prosectors refused to allow this type predatory conduct to not be taken seriously, especially by those in positions of authority at schools.

Back to Mr. Jennings.  First, if this man had to be confirmed by the Senate, he would not have been appointed knowing these facts which he spells out himself proudly in speeches and books.  By subverting the Senate confirmation process and appointing him to a senior administration position, we are left to learn this background all too late.  Secondly, it has been inferred that since Mr. Jennings is himself gay, that this somehow either explains his behavior in 1988 or dismisses the outrage [3] being expressed today by his opponents. 

Jennings is the founder and of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN [5]).  The purpose of GLSEN is to combat the “heterosexism [5]” that “undermines a healthy school climate.”  While certain goals of this group’s cause may be open for debate, and others like “No Name Calling Week” are certainly admirable, none of it has anything to do with this situation.  Whether Jennings or the abused boy was gay or straight is immaterial except that some may assume it influenced Jennings supposedly sympathetic, but extremely misguided decision not to report the abuse.  Any time a 15 year old of any gender is preyed upon by an adult of any gender, it is the responsibility of the community, and especially teachers, to report the incident, and to protect the child, rather than implicitly encourage similar behavior in the future.

Kevin Jennings said as much this week when he apologized for his behavior.  He said [2]: “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.” Again, the familiar emphasis that this was twenty one years ago and should be water under the bridge.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said [2]: “Kevin Jennings has dedicated his professional career to promoting school safety. He is uniquely qualified for his job and I’m honored to have him on our team.” He dedicated his career except for those years that we know of where he ignored child sex abuse, right?

It appears that a growing double standard is emerging among liberals. After months spent scolding the disgraced former Congressman from Florida, Mark Foley, for exchanging lurid text messages with a 16 year old page, it appears there is only silence regarding this senior Obama Administration official’s illegal behavior, condoning child sex abuse [6].  Just as in the Roman Polanski case, the hypocrisy must end.


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2009/10/01/how-much-sexual-assault-will-be-tolerated/

URLs in this post:

[1] defense of Roman Polanski: http://www.foundry.org/2009/09/29/hollywoods-selective-values-where-is-the-liberal-outrage/

[2] reported on Kevin Jennings: http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/09/head-of-office-of-safe-and-drug-free-schools-expresses-regret-for-controversial-incident.html

[3] Safe Schools Czar: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/09/23/critics-assail-obamas-safe-schools-czar-say-hes-wrong-man-job/

[4] A New York Times article in January, 1988: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/31/us/child-sex-abuse-cases-rising-in-massachusetts.html?pagewanted=2

[5] GLSEN: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/about/history/index.html

[6] child sex abuse: http://www.lawlib.state.ma.us/subject/about/sex.html#16

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