Sunday, March 11, 2012

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight is an educator, author, activist, founder, crusader and administrator, they have spent their entire career making sure schools are safe for all students. Today's Out Spotlight is Kevin Jennings.

Kevin Jennings was born May 8, 1963, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida youngest of five children of Chester Henry, an itinerant Southern Baptist preacher, and Alice Verna (Johnson) Jennings. Jennings experienced a childhood deeply rooted in conservative ideology. Poor and in a continual state of transition, his family moved so often that Jennings attended 11 schools in four states.

His father died when Kevin was eight and the family was living in a Lewisville, North Carolina trailer park. From then on he grew up in a rural atmosphere that was intolerant of African Americans and gay people; several of his cousins and uncles were in the Ku Klux Klan. He was constantly taunted and bullied. "The first day of 10th grade I actually refused to go back to school because I simply wasn't going to go back to a place where I was bullied every day."

While he displayed impressive academic aptitude, he suffered daily from mental and physical abuse by classmates. “School was a place I both loved and hated,” recalls Jennings. “I loved it because I loved learning. I hated it because I was targeted at a pretty young age for bullying and harassment.”

He attended Paisley Magnet School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where he did well academically, but was beaten by classmates for what they saw as effeminate behavior and attempted suicide after realizing he was gay. After he and his mother moved to Hawaii he graduated from Radford High School in Honolulu.

In 1985, Jennings earned a bachelor's degree magna cum laude from Harvard University, becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college. Later, he earned master's degrees from both Columbia University and New York University.

Following his graduation from Harvard, Jennings pursued a career in education. In 1988, while he was a history teacher at Concord Academy, a Massachusetts high school, Jennings spearheaded the country's first Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), a coalition of students fighting against harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Two years later, he expanded the movement to encompass parents, teachers and community members, creating GLSEN. Beginning as a grassroots volunteers group, GLSEN has grown into a national organization with more than 40 chapters and over 4,500 schools nationwide.

Jennings served as the co-chair of the Education Committee of the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and challenged the State Board of Education to adopt new policies protecting GLBT students. In 1993, his efforts led to the country's first state law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in public schools.

He was named by Newsweek magazine as one of the top 100 people likely to make a difference in the 21st century.

He has authored six books and received a Lambda Literary Award for his book, "Telling Tales Out of School." He also co-wrote and produced the documentary "Out of the Past," which won the 1998 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary.

Jennings stepped down as head of GLSEN in of August 2008. On May 19, 2009, President Barack Obama's administration Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Jennings' appointment as an Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

He started July 6, of that year as the third director of the office, which was established in 2002 during the George W. Bush administration pursuant to the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Social conservatives campaigned against Jennings' appointment because they alleged he condoned child molestation based on the 2004 incident over a teen's story he related in his book "One teacher in 10 : LGBT educators share their stories." The allegations were proven to be false when it was shown the student was above the age of consent and no sex had occurred. 53 Republican members of the House of Representatives signed a letter to the Obama administration that called for Jennings' dismissal. Education Secretary Duncan, the White House, the NEA, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals have supported Jennings' appointment, with Duncan saying Jennings was “uniquely qualified for his job.”

As an Assistant Deputy Secretary, Jennings focused on matters relating to teacher safety, classroom discipline and bullying and his office has awarded millions in safety grants to school around the country.

In August 2010 his office hosted the first-ever National Bullying Summit which he helped organize. In September 2010 Jennings became one of the notable members of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (NAASP), a public-private partnership designed to advance and update the 2001 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and an outgrowth of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. The NAASP will initially focus on three high-risk populations; LGBT Youth, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Military/Veterans.

On May 19, 2011, the Boston-based nonprofit organization Be the Change, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced that Jennings would be resigning his position with the Obama administration to become President and Chief Executive Officer of the organization.

"We know that students learn best in a school where they feel truly safe. I am here to make that happen for more kids."

"The process of change is like a relay race. My job is to ensure that we're further ahead in the race and, like a good relay team member, ready to pass that baton to the next person with a lead toward the end goal of a safe school for every child.”

21 comments:

Jersey Tom said...

Great Spotlight. What a great man Mr. Jennings is. His cause is so near to my heart. I think about it everyday.

destiny said...

I didn't know Jennings had overcome so much growing up to get where he is today; I also didn't know that he'd left the Obama administration. I guess he thought he could do a lot more outside of government. Really interesting Spotlight.

prairiegirl said...

Wow, poor guy. He must have some really terrible memories of school; that is so sad. I'm glad he's doing what he's doing now - just an incredible story.

Why do kids have to be so mean to each other sometimes? I honestly don't know how you stop some of it. Kids being mean to one another has been going on since the beginning of time. But at least at schools, it should be able to be controlled if other classmates and administration are paying attention and keeping an eye out.

One of the first biggest clues of teasing/bullying is if a child consistently comes up with excuses that they don't want to go to school in the morning. I have had two co-workers who had a child who was teased at school and they would come up with stomach aches and stuff, just so that they wouldn't have to go to school.

tomorrow! said...

Noisey ‏ @noisey_us
The Shoes' new video for "Time to Dance", starring Jake Gyllenhaal, premieres tomorrow on Noisey's YouTube channel youtube.com/noisey

Maybelline said...

Tommy Padula ‏ @tommypadula

Maggie Gyllenhall is just chillin outside 45 Main here in Dumbo. She looks good in person, even though she is very pregnant.

12:25 PM - 8 Mar 12 via Twitter for iPhone


Corey O ‏ @koreyo19

@notkaTRINA forgot to tell you, I passed Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard in DUMBO the other day and ALMOST MISSED IT

6:02 PM - 11 Mar 12 via Twitter for iPhone · Details

Twitter said...

Spence The Nerd ‏ @TheDevilInMe_

@AUS10NICHOLS so i probably seem like a pest you know ?, but ummmm @marloesb5 still has to see a special dm from you. Please sweet cheeks ?
3:21 PM - 11 Mar 12 via web

Twitter said...

Navid Heravi ‏ @NavidHeravi

@AUS10NICHOLS Massive fan of you in OTH please follow back P.S I'm not gay! haa
7:41 PM - 10 Mar 12 via web · Details

Time to See Bumpa & Meemaw Nichols? said...

Hayley Kameron Wood ‏ @WhoosThatGirl

Just saw Jake gyllenhaal. Nbd. #sxsw #lovethistimeofyear #austin


3:35 PM - 11 Mar 12 via Twitter for Android · Details

boxoffice said...

Prince of Persia:

Production Budget: $200 million

Opening Weekend: $30,095,259

John Carter:

Production Budget: $250 million

Opening Weekend (est): $30,603,000

destiny said...

Another movie Disney had no idea how to market. I think it actually sounds like fun, and I like Taylor Kitsch, but yeah, people are saying it's a bomb, especially Nikki Finke, who seems to be obsessed with the topic. Another movie that is also doing okay overseas, where it made $70 million.

destiny said...

I don't see how people can be such bullies either. Insecure? Learned it at home? Never taught to respect differences (I know, hard to do in kids).

sass said...

When we moved to TX in 1995, I had to Make my son stop saying, "That's so gay" which he though was Kool in TX and which was/still part of the San Antonio elementary/middle school slang language back then.

I had heard NO such phrase in CA, the state we moved from and I intend to never here it again.
All such horrible cruelty has to stop immediately; parents have to very active in our children's lives to head off as much human intolerance as possible.
sass

Seaweed said...

What an incredible story of Kevin Jennings. May he continue to have success in working towards the rights of children to have safe places to learn and share tolerance, so that no child is left feeling isolated to the point of not wanting to attend school or worse, contemplating suicide.

twitter said...

Ashley Tibett ‏ @AshleyTibett
getting coffee and run into jake Gyllenhaal. #sosexy in person

Ashley Tibett ‏ @AshleyTibett
@TaraaKing went to get coffee this morning in the city and he was sitting in the first table drinking coffee with his girl. #sohot

Christine Li ‏ @chrstneli
Just made awkward eye contact with jake gyllenhal on canal st.

Jimmy Neda ‏ @JimmytheStylist
Jake Gyllenhaal at La Colombe with a girl with blue hair!

Sarah Khan‏@BySarahKhan


"Jake Gyllenhall sighting (w/a blue-haired woman) at La Colombe coffee shop in SoHo! Eeeeeeeeeee"

tweet said...

Glenn Kitson ‏ @glenn_rig_out

New The Shoes video starring Jake Gyllenhaal ( Who I styled) will premiere here at 12 noon today youtube.com/noisy (c/o @Somesuchandco )
5:49 AM - 12 Mar 12 via web · Details

Jaustin Would Be in Texas said...

Hayley Kameron Wood ‏ @WhoosThatGirl

Just saw Jake gyllenhaal. Nbd. #sxsw #lovethistimeofyear #austin


3:35 PM - 11 Mar 12 via Twitter for Android · Details

prairiegirl said...

Wow people Really wanted to make sure we knew that Jake was in NYC yesterday, huh?

lol

Ol' Hayley Wood kinda blew that one, I think.

I suppose Jake could've had coffee in the morning before he flew out but the tweets came on a little too strong yesterday for my taste. Makes me think they're more like cover.

prairiegirl said...

Used to be we would get twit pics of Jake at ol' Colombo, too. You know, the whole brick wall thing.

How come we don't get pictures anymore? Not a one.

Again, very odd.

Be prepared for the new beard said...

Hate to bring bad news (so disappointing!) but the blue haired woman is Lea Seydoux. She is doing a French film “Le bleu est une couleur chaude” (Blue is a hot color) and if you see the cover of the book the woman has blue hair (link). She recently cut her hair short for this film (pic 1 and pic 2) and she probably dyed it blue later.

And oh coincidence, just when we were questioning the lack of pics, there are staged paparazzi pics with this girl coming our way today. After months of not having pap pics in NYC, here he is. Two agencies already have the pics (very small size), so probably they will be on IHJ later today: Paparazzi pics

prepare yourself said...

Don't hurt yourself when it doesn't turn out to be true.

She's not a beard.

serial killer said...

Time to Dance Video