In which I consider violating my shiny, new policy

TPM has a handy run-down of the latest Right-wing political appointee froth. The newest target appears to be the director of the Office of Safe and Drug-free Schools, Kevin Jennings. Doubtless, the real issue is that Jennings is gay. But, being that you're not allowed to hate gays per se anymore, they've found a closely-related proxy issue.

Many of the attacks have centered around a conversation Jennings describes in his autobiography. When he was a 24-year-old teacher, he wrote, he spoke with a male student, a sophomore, who'd had a sexual encounter with an older man. Jennings didn't report the encounter; instead, he gave the student advice and sent him on his way.
I will deal with the substance of this complaint in a moment. But let's go first to a statement from Iowa's own Steve King, a man who has provided lots of blog fodder in the past:
“Kevin Jennings lacks the appropriate qualifications and ethical standards to serve in a presidential administration. Despite serving as the ‘safe schools’ czar, Jennings has demonstrated a willingness to look the other way on sexual abuse. His life’s work has been the promotion of homosexuality, even in elementary schools, and he has demonstrated no qualifications to make students safer in our schools. Jennings is committed to the ‘safety’ of only a narrow portion of American students, while expressing disdain for religion and traditional values. President Obama should fire Kevin Jennings immediately.
I am deeply tempted to spew forth a thick stream of profane invective. But, calling Rep. King a [socially diseased] son of a [practitioner of the world's oldest profession] won't move the debate forward. So, instead, let's talk about what he has to say.

First of all, he and his fellow travelers clearly don't know the difference between sexual abuse and sexual assault. They also clearly don't understand mandatory reporting law. In a nutshell, certain professionals (including physicians and teachers) are mandated to report suspected cases of sexual or physical abuse. Now, law varies by state, and I don't know what it was in Massachusetts at the time, but in the states where I have practiced, there is a clear distinction between sexual abuse (ie. that perpetrated by a care-giver or proxy) and sexual assault (of which statutory rape is a type). The former falls under mandatory reporting, but typically the latter is reported at the discretion of the victim. In other words, if an adolescent has been sexually assaulted and does not want the crime reported, we defer to that.

Now, doubtless Rep. King would object to this wholesale, because a conservative like Rep. King probably values parental prerogatives above all else. But this is out of keeping with how we actually care for adolescents in the real world. If a troubled gay teenager (who, it turns out, was old enough to consent in the first place) doesn't want his parents informed of his relationship with an older man, it is entirely appropriate for a teacher (or pediatrician) to respect that. Doing so is within the law (at least in states where I have practiced) and would be endorsed by most providers trained in adolescent medicine (my subspecialty). Rep. King may not like it, but Rep. King can stick it in his ear.

Moving right along, Rep. King's statements about who should and should not be "safe" and the importance of "traditional values" are telling. Rep. King doesn't actually care about the safety of gay and lesbian students, whose safety impinges on nobody and nothing except the freedom of [site of digestive egress, plural] like himself to hate them. Someday in the not-too-distant future, Critter is going to head off to school with two loving and anxious gay dads hoping he'll be well-looked-after and protected from the cruelty of kids who are raised to share the attitudes of Rep. King. To a certain degree, said cruelty can't be helped, and kids are cruel for all sorts of reasons. The real world, she is a tough place. But, being close friends with the guidance counselors at both the local elementary and middle schools, we are comforted to know that kids of same-gender parents are, indeed, well-looked-after, and the schools (yes, even at elementary level) make sure all families are respected. Rep. King clearly thinks that's wrong, because Rep. King is an awful person.


  1. Interesting. California defines "sexual abuse" as "sexual assault" or "sexual explotation" (Cal. Penal Code § 11165.1). There is, AFAICT, no distinction between caregivers and others. So it appears the Maine definition differs from the California definition. Heaven knows what the relevant Mass. law required.

    I'm curious about the Maine law. You say that sexual abuse is a mandatory report if a minor is involved, but you don't say reporting sexual assault is optional. Instead, the minor gets to decide if the sexual assault is reported? Does Maine law really say the victim's permission is required to report Roman Polanski sexually assaulting a 13yo? That seems wrong, and would not hold in CA, but hey, maybe that's what the Maine law says. I defer to your expertise.

  2. good post Dan, if Counselors reported everything sexual that teenagers say to them then no teenagers would go to them. If a 15 year old girl had sex with her 17 year old boyfriend, and wanted to get advice then of course confidentiality must be upheld, the only exception being when someones life is in danger. Imagine if the counselor then reports the act. The 17 year old might go to jail, and the girl would find her life a nightmare.

    By the way, I read about that encounter the sophomore had, it was anonymous (and very dangerous). It is highly unlikely the perp would have gotten caught, and the sophomore would have found himself outed. There would have been no upside. Instead he had the chance to offer real support to the sophomore to steer him away from dangerous sex.

    The best thing about confession in the Catholic church is that it is ironclad in confidentiality.


  3. So, charo, the potential to catch and imprison a man who is willing to have dangerous sex with minors is "no upside?"

    And I don't believe the law requires reporting for "everything sexual teenagers say"; rather, it requires reporting reasonable suspicions of sexual abuse when a minor is involved.

  4. The sex was anonymous, in a darkened alley, which is what the kid admitted to. So you are going to tell me they are going to interrogate some 16 year old, have him go over a slew of mugshots pressuring him to pick someone. The 16 year old himself would have had to admit to committing a crime (homosexual acts were illegal), and his life would likely have been very traumatized. There would have been no evidence, just some 16 year old kids word who would have been under pressure to name someone.
    So based on probability of any successful id, let alone a conviction, and with the kid being humiliated and traumatized, and couple that with the fact the counselor would then have been rendered useless at his school since no one would have trusted him, (and they could not have let him go) then no, I see no upside. Or let me say the downsides far, far outweigh any highly improbable upside.

    It is amazing how little understanding you have of the justice system. You do know the CSI is just a TV show and is not based on real cases.
    When cops arrest hookers they don't interrogate them to id every john, it would never hold up in court.


  5. I didn't tell you anything, charo, other than there was the potential to catch someone who was clearly endangering a minor and likely to do so in the future. And I'd like for law enforcement to make the call about the probability, not me, not you, not the minor, and not the teacher. If you haven't experience in law enforcement, then you really have no more valid opinion about the likelihood of getting this criminal off the streets and protecting other minors. You don't know what evidence may or may not have been available. You have nothing beyond uninformed speculation to justify the judgement of Mr. What's-his-face. I think people are perfectly capable of figuring out the reasonableness of not reporting to police that a sexual predator was raping minors in alleys. At the very least, the police could have kept a closer watch on this alley; who knows, the bastard might have been caught in fragrante delicto. No upside, indeed.

  6. Oh, and before you start up about the age of the boy[1], remember that MA has a law (MGL c. 272 s. 4) against inducing someone under the age of 18 to commit "unlawful sexual intercourse." That law was on the books in 1987, because there is a case from that year.

    I withdraw the claim that statutory rape occurred. I do not withdraw the claim that a crime occurred and it should have been reported.

    [1] Isn't it strange how the left describes an 18yo who enlists voluntarily as a 'child', but insists that a 16yo is able to 'consent' to dangerous sexual practices with post-21 adults?

  7. Just a couple of quick comments:

    1) I always, always urge adolescents to disclose if they have been sexually assaulted (not including statutory rape when the two are basically peers). Always. If they are younger (such as 13, for example), I indicate that one of our long-term goals will be to find an adult who they will tell. This is not for law-enforcement, but for mental health purposes. But I don't have a mandate to disclose, and I err on the side of respecting confidentiality and fostering a therapeutic relationship with the patient, who otherwise might be disinclined to return if I am not trusted.

    2) If the teenager is gay, and there is threat of parental reprisal for that, then I err MUCH more on the side of confidentiality.

    3) Having now collected forensic evidence for sexual assault cases several times, I will say that the farther out from the assault, the harder it is to get evidence that will hold up in court. If the victim has showered and changed clothes, and it's been even a day since it happened, finding anything that will support a criminal case is very unlikely.

  8. then fine gadfly john, why don't we just bug counselors offices, and priests confessionals, etc. all in the name of catching criminals?
    You seem to be so clueless as to human nature. Do you really believe a teenager will admit to the police he went out trolling in a dark alley for gay sex? How dense are you? At most he will say he heard about some kid that did and was troubled by it which is why he went to the counselor. And, of course, the counselor will be useless as a counselor. Look, I have no problem with the counselor doing everything he can to protect the kid, but ruining his life ain't protecting him. How heartless are you?

    And the cops do make that call all the time, which is why they don't arrest johns unless they are caught in the act.

    As to that case, I read the original story. Your speculation is even further removed. I am sure you are being contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian, because you really can't be this f-ing stupid. Wait, check that, you are that stupid.

    As to the age of consent, if you are bothered by it then lobby to have the laws changed. As it is you have no f-ing clue as to what it means. 16 year olds can consent to have sex with people their own age within a five year age difference. A 50 year old can't have sex with a 16 year old.
    Do you really want to arrest every teenager who has sex with another teenager? Are you that much of a knuckledragger, oh wait, check that, you are. And your contrasting 18 year olds dying in war as being equivalent to 16 year olds in the back seat of a chevy is pretty reprehensible. You are one sick puppy to criticize people who mourn the loss of life of an 18 year, lamenting that he was still so much of a child with his life in front of him. What is wrong with you? And again, know the law you jackass, people insist that 16 year olds are old enough to have sex without government sanction preventing them, which they manifestly are, no one advocates for it, we recognize human nature. But it is agains the law for a person over 21 to have sex with a 16 year old (at least in my state, probably where you are from incest is legal, which explains your condition) It is not my fault that you have the testosterone of a 2 year old girl. Obviously you have no idea of the power of the sex drive in teenagers. I say isn't it strange how you have no idea of the nature of sex, you poor impotent manchild you.

    Honestly, I have run out of patience with your continued and relentless stupidity. Thank God you are on the wrong side of history, and I am satisfied that your cup is filled with bitter ash. Adios pendajo


  9. by the way, assfly john, I have just as much right to express my opinion as anyone you little neo fascist. Law enforcement is uniformly in favor of gun laws, so are you now going to defer to them? Hardly. And in case if you forget, in the end it is the comman citizen in the jury who decides guilt and innocence, so if a comman citizen can do that, he sure as hell can have a godddamn opinion as to probability of a conviction.

    ok, that is enough beating up on assfly john for today, doubtless he wet himself as the pasting I just levelled on him, I really should have more compassion to him since he lacks testicles (which all gun nuts lack)


  10. Hey, charo, your first sentence gives the game away. Stop making stupid suggestions, and don't put words in my mouth. Buck up, and argue like a rational human.

    The consent stuff is just your bluster; I've withdrawn the statutory rape claim. Soliciting a 16yo for sex was still a crime in MA in '87. And as you note, age difference counts; the bastard in this case is described as an "older man" -- what do you want to bet the bastard is well over 21?

    Anyway, there is more to the story about Mr. Safe Schools; his group GLSEN apparently ran a Fisting is FUN! session at least once for teenagers in public schools (ask Mr. Google for details, the material was taped by concerned parents). Is Mr. Obama's administration capable of vetting people at all, or is fisting just considered mainstream for teenagers by the Left?

    BTW, your continual stream of ad hominem attacks simply indicates the intellectual shallowness and bankruptcy of your arguments. Go pound sand, loser.

  11. Gentlemen, I suspect the rhetorical value of your exchange has been exhausted at this point.

  12. Maybe it's time to back up for a moment and consider the possible genius of the Congressman's ludicrous assertion: maybe we *should* promote homosexuality in schools. Why? First, it would prove rather quickly the lifestyle choice vs. genetics argument is not a valid debate because you can't just talk someone into being gay. Added bonus: the whole "homosexuality is a slippery slope toward sex with animals and corpses" and whatever other ludicrous argument bigots make about letting consenting adults live their own lives would quickly show the ignorant that consensual homosexuality is not a gateway sexual orientation toward anything but self awareness and happiness for the percentage of Americans who will be homosexual whether you think it's okay or not. Second, it would normalize the discussion so we can make less painless the push toward equality for all Americans. Third, conservatives had their chance to prove that abstinence-only education would reduce teen pregnancy. Result: abyssmal failure with nasty additional benefit of skyrocketing STD rate. What about a full and open discussion for the next eight years to see where that turns the children of America: toward respect for their bodies and for other people, maybe? Fourth, it would help all the closeted politicians step forward and vote their conscience instead of their homophobic mask so we can get this pretty-darned-clear civil rights, soon-to-be-non-issue off the damned table and move onto important issues like health care, social security, and education.

  13. I meant l"ess painful the push toward equality." Monumentally huge typo.