Friday, October 01, 2010

Kevin Jennings: 
'I Have Been Horrified' By Student Suicides

In the past hour or so, the Education Department's Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings sent out a terse statement, that mentions his horror over the recent bullying deaths of gay or questioning kids. The note was sent out by a colleague of Jennings' and is shared in full:

------Original Message------
From: Kesner, Paul
ReplyTo: Prevention ED List
Subject: [PREVENTIONED] 10-01-2010--ED's Safe and Supportive Schools Update--Statement by U.S. Education Secretary Duncan: Bullying must stop
Sent: Oct 1, 2010 6:05 PM

From the Desk of Kevin Jennings

As is the case for most of those reading this message, I have been horrified by the recent media coverage of student suicides prompted by bullying. I am fortunate to have a boss who is just as horrified and today made the below statement.

I hope each of you will consider ways you can help bring bullying to an end and urge you to check out for useful resources in so doing.

[Link to Education Secretary Arne Duncan's two-paragraph statement.]

By my count, there are 72-words in the statement, and they are not nearly enough to satisfy my need for Jennings to use more words, and actions, to combat the deadly problems bullied kids are facing and the silence surrounding the suicides.

If Jennings has not been bullied into silence or fear or reticence by the likes of Fox News and the Washington Times, if he is standing up to conservative forces, all to better serve the at-risk kids, I have not seen proof of it.

BTW, the terse Jennings note was shared with by Ken Trump, a security consultant who blogs on school safety and bullying here. Thanks, Ken!

Trump makes a vital point about the timing of both the Jennings and Duncan notes, which were released after 5 PM Washington time:

Maybe it's just me, but I don't ever recall anything come out of this office this late and this late on a Friday. I know it's an old PR trick of dropping things on late Fridays which you hope will never make the news cycle, but I don't know if that was the intent here or not. But the timing caught my eye, especially in light of your writings. It could lead some to believe the timing was intentional: Appease those who have been riding their backs for a statement, but drop it so late that hopefully the bulk of the media won't pick it up.

Earlier this afternoon I spoke on the phone with Jo Ann Webb, the Education Department spokesperson listed on the media advisory about Jennings' talk this morning at a restaurant in New York City. All I wanted from her was a report, written or verbal, on what Jennings said today on bullying, especially after a severe spike in gay teen bullied to death in the past week or so. Might have been easier to ask Webb to lasso the moon for me.

In response to my request for basic info on whatever specifics Jennings spoke about, Webb said:

We have no transcript and Mr. Jennings does not use written notes for his speeches. He generally likes to speak off the cuff. I don't know what he said. Unless you were there, we can't tell you specifically what he address.

I pointed out that I live on the West Coast was not able to attend the talk, and Webb mentioned that Jennings talked to four reporters today, which I said was a good thing and might provide me with insight into what he said at the breakfast. Would Webb tell me which outlets he spoke to? Her reply:

No, I can't tell you that. But you might try getting a report on the breakfast from the YMCA of New York. They hosted the event.

An email was sent to Ellen Murphy, p.r. head for the YMCA back there, and also left her a voice mail, seeking info. Not sure how willing she might be to share some details, but I may run into the same problem with her and her org that I experienced with Webb at the Education Department.

This YMCA lists nothing on its site about Jennings or his talk today, which is odd, but par for the course over anything to do with Jennings and his role as czar for school safety.

Mr. Jennings, your over all silence will not protect the bullied kids.

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