Alex Blaze

Gay Man the Right Loved to Hate Leaves Education Department Job

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 20, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Democrats, GLSEN, iowa, Kevin Jennings, nonprofit, republican

Kevin Jennings is leaving the Department of Education to work for a nonprofit:jennings.jpg

The Be the Change nonprofit announced today that Kevin Jennings, currently serving in the Obama administration's Education Department as the assistant deputy secretary and the head of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, will be leaving that role this summer to become the new president and CEO of Be the Change.

Kevin Jennings, the founder of GLSEN and the current "Safe Schools Czar," came under fire in 2009 from Sean Hannity, the Washington Times, the AFA, and others on the right because he was a gay man working in the Education Department in a prominent position. The attacks on him ranged from one time he said he liked Harry Hay to a story he told where an of-age student of his told him he had sex and Jennings didn't immediately call the police to questioning his belief in God.

They weren't able to find anything of substance, which is why the accusations never got off the ground, but they were playing to their base, as Michelle Goldberg said at the time:

The illogic didn't really matter, though, because the right's escalating war on Jennings is all about appealing to primal emotion. Jennings, the assistant deputy secretary of Education in charge of the Office of Safe & Drug-Free Schools, is the target of one of the ugliest homophobic witch-hunts we've seen in a while. It plays directly into classic right-wing narratives of predatory gay recruitment. "Children don't need to be learning about homosexual practices in elementary school," says Princeton Professor Robert George, in a video on the anti-Jennings Web site preserveinnocence.org. On Monday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) sent a letter to Obama calling on him to fire Jennings. "Mr. Jennings' life's work has been the promotion of homosexuality, much of it in our elementary schools," he wrote.

While the non-story was eventually forgotten, it fed into the weird "czar" conspiracy theories from the right and eventually made an appearance in the Iowa GOP platform.

Now with Kevin Jennings voluntarily leaving, the Democrats have won this round just by waiting it out. And that's the only way to work against the rightwing noise machine: ignore it and keep on doing the right thing.

img from Be the Change's website


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You know, I sympathize but with many reservations. Why do "safe schools", "anti violence" and "drug free" have to be linked the way they are in public policy? I paid close attention to the long thread attached to the guy stuck in prison, particularly the high handed presumptions regarding the nature of his guilt. I am also aware of the reaction I received when I showed limited sympathy to the guy who lost his job at the drug testing lab because of his transsexual history but sympathy is based on empathy not loyalty to someone who I might have very little in common with outside of very limited circumstances we might find each of ourselves in. Being a victim of bigotry or injustice does not mean one can't victimize others whether actively or passively. In the news this morning there was a story that starts out like this:

"A mole was in their midst.

A new student enrolled in January, transferring from Connecticut, using a phony name and transcript. And she worked hard, took classes, did homework and, most importantly, bought drugs."

http://www.projo.com/news/content/WWPD_DRUGS_05-20-11_G2O68BF_v8.311c30c.html

They caught a handful of students and three or four 18 year old kids. One of them had three ounces of pot. One of them is being held "without bail pending a bail-status conference on May 26". The others were released on $25,000 - 30,000 bail. I am sure the bondsman will hit them for $2500-3,000. The other kid is at the intake center for at least a week. I know people who have been there. It's hell. There are a lot of suicide attempts at the prison here. What are the court costs and lawyers fees? The narc crossed state lines. Was there federal involvement in this?

Say what you want about kids under the age of majority and pot. What violence is being prevented by these policies? With the cost of bail, lawyers, etc., where are the kids supposed to come up with the money to pay for this. I have seen these cycles develop quite frequently. Usually it starts with a lot of people insisting some one pay the price for breaking a law that really doesn't amount to much of a crime which leads to an impossible economic situation and new "contacts" that often exert a very pernicious influence.

Brad Bailey | May 20, 2011 5:20 PM

I have never seen anybody so despised by Republicans as Kevin Jennings. They went gunning for him like no one else I'd ever seen.

Virtually all the Republican legislators at the time signed a petition to fire him, including the congressman from my district. And the petition was vile, using phrases like "the abomination of homosexuality" and such.

I promptly wrote my congressman, sharply critcizing him for signing it. It was the only time I ever received a call directly from his office trying to convince me of the wisdom of his actions.

I don't know very much about Jenkins situation, but I have to say I'm dissappointed by this decision. Instead of being an advocate on the outside, he had an amazing opportunity to be *the* guy in a position of real power on the inside. Unless he felt that he wasn't having any impact in his job, I don't see the advantage to the movement in leaving it. I think it's more important to be a cabinet official than just one more executive director of a non-profit.

I am trying to follow this. Oh, I know. I sound like I am way out in left field. Sorry, for the baseball metaphor. How on board do I have to be with this? There is post after post on his appointment and a numerous links within each post with links within links.

What do I notice most prominently? "Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools". That is an alarm right there. But, when I look further into this what do I notice? ARNE DUNCAN. I mean there are problems within problems here. Google Central Falls High School teacher firings, R I., Debra Gist, Michelle Rhee. Washington, D. C., The Devos Family, Xe. All of them, very hard working people. Google the Broad Foundation. Google charter schools. This guy is part of Duncan's apparatus. Check out Diane Ravitch on the Daily Show:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-3-2011/diane-ravitch

Read how she had an hour long conversation with the governor of R I and was repeatedly cut off by Gist.

This guy may be "a man for all seasons" but he's still working for Henry VIII. Injustice really isn't all that selective, you know. Why do you think he's gotten the attention he has? You can't make compromises with evil. Go ahead. Give it a try, anyway. I am sure the devil has a favorite son.

"And that's the only way to work against the rightwing noise machine: ignore it and keep on doing the right thing." - Words to live by. :)

Well, obviously there is no echo to my words. I have looked into Jennings' background a little further. It is very unfortunate that is so difficult to get beyond the Fox News, Andrew Breitbart, et al attacks which I think is very unfortunate. Jennings headed up an office that is focused on "indoctrination". It doesn't have anything to do with LGBT indoctrination. He is part of an anti-drug propaganda apparatus that definitely paralyzes the process of critical thinking when it comes to drugs that do not have government/big pharma approval. Not a good thing in my estimation. It is hard to get info on the organization he is moving to. There is some information available on Alan Khazei the organizations founder. I looked at his senate campaign platform and found little to disagree with. I don't think I am exactly on board with some of the groups he's affiliated with, however, groups like Teach for America.

I really think critical thinking should be very highly valued in education. I think the attention Jennings has attracted definitely has to do with the forces that would like to seize control of the education system and thereby the minds of the young. I question the part in that people like him are playing. I would prefer people from backgrounds similar to Jennings have more control over public education policy but I think there are many more problems being overlooked with all the attention he has attracted because of his background. I think the whole picture should be considered because I think there are obviously elements at work seeking to indoctrinate in a Pavlovian way. There is irony I see here. I think it is the result of Pavlovian indoctrination. The rabid response that the mere mention of "drugz" elicits from millions on SSRI's is just so reliable. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at how well the whole thing is working.