Blog: Interview examines uproar over safe-schools official

Friday, October 16, 2009

  • Go to the interview

    I did a telephone interview for Learning First Alliance on Oct. 9 that focused on the First Amendment Center's guidelines concerning sexual orientation and public schools.

    Alliance Executive Director Claus von Zastrow and I discussed the need for schools and communities to use First Amendment principles to find common ground on how to make schools safe learning environments for all students.

    We also touched on the current controversy surrounding Kevin Jennings at the U.S. Department of Education, who helped formulate the guidelines when he was executive director of GLSEN — the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. GLSEN and the Christian Educators Association International joined with the American Association of School Administrators, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and BridgeBuilders to endorse the guide when it was released in 2006.

    Jennings now heads the education department's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, and has been accused by some conservatives of “pushing a pro-homosexual agenda in America's schools,” in the words of a letter from 53 Republican congressmen calling for Jennings' resignation.

    In the interview, I describe my experience of Jennings as a fair-minded, thoughtful leader who worked hard to reach common ground in the process of drafting the guidelines.

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