(CNSNews.com) – Days after the Obama administration’s safe schools czar said he should have handled a 1988 incident differently when he advised a “high school sophomore, 15-years-old” to use a condom in having sex with an older man, rather than reporting the incident, the student reportedly has come forward to say he did not engage in a homosexual relationship then and that he was actually 16 at the time, which would be the legal age of consent.
Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary for the Education Department’s office of safe and drug free schools and the founder of Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, has come under fire for the incident that he had written and spoken publicly about before taking the government position.
According to a speech he gave on the matter, Jennings believed the student he identified as “Brewster” was 15.
The Family Research Council has called on Jennings to resign from his post. However, both the White House and the Department of Education are standing firmly behind Jennings. In most states, an adult having sex with a 15-year-old would constitute statutory rape.
CNN reported Sunday that someone claiming to be “Brewster,” the name of the student Jennings talked about in speeches, said, “Since I was of legal consent at the time, the 15-minute conversations I had with Mr. Jennings 21 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,” CNN reported the former student saying. “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 16-year-old going through something most of us have experienced: adolescence.”
“Brewster” continues, “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.”
CNN also reported that "Brewster" presented his driver's license to document his age.
However, in the widely circulated 2000 speech on the matter, there was no indication Jennings believed Brewster was of the legal age of consent.
“And I said, ‘Brewster, what are you doing in there asleep?’" Jennings recalled. "And he said, 'Well, I’m tired.' And I said, ‘Well, we all are tired and we all got to school today.’ And he said, ‘Well I was out late last night.’
“And I said, ‘What were you doing out late on a school night.’ And he said, ‘Well, I was in Boston,’” Jennings recalled. “Boston was about 45 minutes from Concord. So I said, ‘What were you doing in Boston on a school night, Brewster?’”
“He got very quiet, and he finally looked at me and said, ‘Well, I met someone in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him.’ High school sophomore, 15 years old. That was the only way he knew how to meet gay people. I was a closeted gay teacher, 24 years old, didn’t know what to say,” Jennings added.
“Knew I should say something quickly, so I finally said--my best friend had just died of AIDS the week before. I looked at Brewster and said, ‘You know, I hope you knew to use a condom.’ He said to me something I will never forget, He said, ‘Why should I, my life isn’t worth saving anyway,’” Jennings said.
Jennings issued a statement Wednesday saying he wished he had handled the situation differently.
“Twenty one years later I can see how I should have handled this situation differently,” Jennings said in the statement. “I should have asked for more information and consulted legal or medical authorities.”
“Teachers back then had little training or 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,” Jennings said.
Last Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs never identified Jennings by name. Rather, he gave a general defense of civil servants against personal attacks.
“I think there are many good people from every political persuasion that seek to serve their country and serve in government,” Gibbs said. “I think it's a sacrifice, but one that people do voluntarily because they love their country.
“I think it's a shame. I hope that as people watch, they’ll match up some of the actual truth to what is being said on some of these occasions and start to provide a little reality check to some of what's going on,” Gibbs added.
Jennings has faced scrutiny before because of his activism for promoting homosexuality in education.
The conversation with the underage boy was recounted in the Jennings’ book “One Teacher in Ten: Gay and Lesbian Educators Tell their Stories.”
In an action alert issued by the Family Research Council last week, the organization called on Jennings to resign.
“Of course, one of the most shocking pieces of news about Jennings is a story he's told himself (in different ways at different times) about a 15-year-old student who came to him and confessed that he was having sex with older men in a bus station restroom.
Instead of reporting the high-risk behavior to the boy's parents, school administrators or the police, Jennings' only response was, ‘I hope you knew to use a condom,’” the FRC alert said.
“Jennings has shown a disregard for parental rights and for our children's well being, yet he is the President's choice to keep our schools safe! Safe for sexual predators it would seem!” the FRC continued. “Please contact your state school board and let them know that this is unacceptable, and they need to let the President know: it is time Kevin Jennings resigns.”
Jennings has made a string of other controversial comments highlighted by the FRC. The group even set up a Web site: stopjennings.org.
In a 2000 speech in New York, Jennings said:
“We have to quit being afraid of the religious right. We also have to quit — … I'm trying to find a way to say this. I'm trying not to say, ‘[F---] 'em’ which is what I want to say, because I don't care what they think.”
His 2006 book, “Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son: A Memoir,” on page 101 said, “What had [God] done for me, other than make me feel shame and guilt? Squat. [Scr*w] you, buddy - I don't need you around anymore.”