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Jennings on Defensive Over Old Comments to Gay Student

By Alyson Klein — October 01, 2009 1 min read

Kevin Jennings, was appointed to his job at the helm of the U.S. Department of Education’s office of safe and drug free schools more than three months ago, amid criticism from some socially conservative groups that sought to derail the appointment. Now, some controversial statements he made years ago to a gay student are stirring up those critics once again.

Warren Throckmorton, a conservative psychology professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and an independent blogger, recently posted an audio interview on his Web site, in which Jennings recounts that while he was a high school teacher he told a sophomore, who picked up an older man in a bus station and went home with him, that he hoped the student used a condom.

Jennings now said he wishes he had handled the situation differently.

“I should have asked for more information and consulted medical or legal authorities,” Jennings said in a statement to the Associated Press in the wake of recent criticism. “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.”

Still, some conservative-leaning news outlets have sharply criticized Jennings, including the Washington Times.

But Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has backed Jennings, telling the Associated Press that he’s “honored to have [Jennings] on the team.”

Alexander Russo posted a pretty interesting graphic on the subject here.

UPDATE: A lot of groups in the education community are throwing their support behind Jennings. The National Association of School Psychologists put out this statement. And Learning First has this supportive statement.

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