Friday, November 18, 2011

Pix of Gay Youths Dead from Bullying
Redacted from Jennings' Slides by the Feds

(Click to enlarge. Credit: U.S. Department of Education.)

A year ago this month, when he was still the Department of Education's safe schools czar, Kevin Jennings delivered a powerful speech in Portland, Oregon, about the harmful and sometimes deadly consequences of bullying among youths. The Oregonian's piece about Jennings' presentation opened with a focus on a key component of his talk:

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.

To drive the point home about the importance of the slides, the story closed with an emphasis on them and the dead gay youths in the photos:

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."

That slide of the deceased teenagers, shown above, was released to me recently in response to a Freedom of Information Act request I filed with the Department of Education. You'll notice all images of the dead are redacted. This redacting was done by the department, citing privacy exemptions of FOIA.

It's all quite odd given that Jennings, who has retired from the department, was allowed by his superiors to include the photos in his slide presentation, but when a member of the public requests copies of the slides those photos are whited-out.

If the images can be shown while giving a federally-sanctioned talk about combating bullying, then the Department of Education should also show them when FOIA requests are made for the slides used by Jennings.

No comments: