Jennings Speaks on Bullying in OR;
Uses Slides of Deceased Youths
(Kevin Jennings speaking to school bus operators in Portland yesterday. Credit: Beth Nakamura, The Oregonian.)Is it just my imagination, or was Sarah Palin more available to the media and public after John McCain chose her as his running mate, than Kevin Jennings in the weeks after an alarming spike of gay or questioning youths killed themselves after being bullied and humiliated?
Jennings, who serves as the Education Department's safe schools czar, is someone I would prefer to have been out and visible and talking talking talking about the bullying and suicide crisis. Trying to get even minimal info from the department's press office is as difficult as they can possibly make it.
But yesterday, a breakthrough happened in the Pacific Northwest. From an article by reporter Candice Ruud in the Oregonian:
A slide showed 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker Hoover on one knee, grinning in his football uniform. The text below created a disturbing contrast: "Death by hanging."
The next slide showed another smiling youth. Then another was added, then another -- seven in all. All suicides since 2009 of young people who were bullied.
The slides ended a presentation Monday in Portland by Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Education and head of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Office. He spoke at a conference at the Oregon Convention Center of the National Association for Pupil Transportation -- largely school bus drivers. [...]
Jennings flew to Portland from Washington, D.C., on Monday solely to give his talk. Many of the 100 or so who attended left in tears. [...]
For example, he said, if a girl is agonizing about being bullied through sexting, she's not going to pay attention in class. Or the situation could end in tragedy, as it did for 13-year-old Hope Witsell, another victim on Jennings' slides, who hanged herself in 2009. [...]
At the end of Jennings' talk, the images of the seven suicide victims lingered on the screen. Jennings broke the silence:
"I used to have more photos on this slide, but I ran out of room."
Very interesting that Jennings used images of the deceased youths in his public address yesterday, and I am quite curious as to exactly what those slides look like. Yes, I've filed a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of the slides, and hope to receive them in a few weeks.
I'd also like to see Jennings make himself available to gay bloggers and traditional media. Heck, it would be fine by me if he found the time to publicly address school kids. It makes a lot of sense to me to speak with school bus drivers, who are an integral part of the day for many youths, but Jennings shouldn't overlook the need to publicly speak with students.