Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Kevin Jennings Did Know Content of Fistgate Fisting Workshop in Advance

Media Matters is trying to help Kevin Jennings avoid accountability on his GLSEN-Boston Fistgate conference. But it won't wash. Of course Jennings and the Massachusetts Department of Education knew beforehand what the "sexuality educators" would discuss with children at the "fisting" workshop. The instructor Margot Abels said so herself, and was disappointed when she later became their scapegoat.

Jennings, after all, worked hand in hand with the Mass. Department of Education from the beginning, as co-chair of the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth education committee, which set up the statewide program, "Safe Schools for Gay and Lesbian Students" in the DOE. That is the program the fisting workshop instructors worked for.  (See Jennings' bio in the Fistgate Conference program booklet. He also confirms this in his memoir, Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son, Chapter 11.)

Margot Abels, Fistgate instructor
[photo: Marilyn Humphries, Bay Windows]

Rod Dreher wrote in the Weekly Standard (July 2000):

The [Fistgate] tapes went out anyway [despite GLSEN's threat of a lawsuit for "illegal wiretapping"] and became a talk radio sensation. On May 19, state education chief David Driscoll canned Abels and Netherland and terminated Gaucher's contract. But Driscoll also insisted that the controversial workshop was an aberration that shouldn't be allowed to derail the entire program. Abels fumed to the press that the education department had known perfectly well what she had been doing for years and hadn't cared until the tapes had surfaced. Camenker, ironically, agreed. [emphasis added]

From Atty. Ed Pawlick's report in Massachusetts News (September 2001):

The teachers at Fistgate knew that the public would not approve what they were teaching to the children about graphic homosexual sex, one of the teachers revealed last week. 
“[W]e flew sort of below the radar screen for a long time,” Margot Abels told Boston’s homosexual newspaper, Bay Windows. 
She taught them sex because she thought she knew better than the parents what should be taught to the children. She says she had the support of state officials during her seven years at the state Department of Education.  
“We always knew that we were working in an area that in certain places was considered really controversial and we also knew that we were doing cutting edge work and that there are plenty of people that don't support doing work with gay kids. But I think that we flew sort of below the radar screen for a long time and were able to, and had the complete support of our agency. Maybe David Driscoll [Commissioner of Education] didn't always know everything that we did, but certainly our supervisors did," said Abels.  
She added that she and Julie Netherland, another teacher at Fistgate, always had the “absolute support” of their immediate supervisors.... 
After reviewing a few of the campaigns they had tried, Abels described for the teachers the project she had worked on, the “Gay/Straight Alliance HIV Education Project.” She traveled to five different schools each year conducting up to eight “HIV prevention sessions” in that school’s gay club. She and the other teachers who had just told a group of children how to properly position their hands for “fisting” were telling this room full of educators that they would visit their schools and teach the same thing to their students.  
Abels says that the Massachusetts schools were a “nationally recognized model” for teaching teenagers about homosexual sex until the scandal surfaced. [emphasis added]

Kevin Jennings had long been fearful that his actual GLSEN materials and conference content might be exposed. He once even called Brian Camenker (head of Parents' Rights Coalition, now MassResistance) at his home and yelled at him. (This was probably in 1998.) Massachusetts News reported on this harassment in 2001. (See the complete interview here.) Excerpt:

Brian Camenker Discusses Confession of Margot Abels, Fistgate Teacher 
By Ed Oliver  
(October 2001)
A teacher at Fistgate, Margot Abels, recently confirmed what Brian Camenker has been saying all along about what she and others taught to Massachusetts school children.
Abels was fired from the state Department of Education for what occurred at Fistgate. But an arbitrator recently awarded her all of her back pay and ordered that she get her old job back. He said she had not been acting on her own but with approval from her superiors to teach this material.
She now says that she “flew sort of below the radar screen for a long time,” as no one in the public realized what was happening.

MassNews: What did your people try to do before Fistgate that led to the taping? How did you know what the homosexual movement was teaching the kids?
Camenker: Well, the interesting thing about that is we had actually been to the previous two GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) conferences. In fact, one year we had let the word out that we might be protesting and the president of GLSEN called me at home to harass me about it.
MassNews: Who was that?
Camenker: His name was Kevin Jennings. He actually got my home phone number and called me at home to harass me.
MassNews: Harass you how?
Camenker: Oh, he basically yelled and screamed at me a little bit. The way he found out about it interestingly enough is I had mentioned it to a Channel 5 News Reporter. The news reporter called him in New York and warned him about this. The way we found out was Jennings did an interview with Bay Windows and said that a Channel 5 Reporter had warned him. When I asked Channel 5 about it they said they called him up to do an interview. I asked how is it that a TV station would do an interview on the phone. I’ve never heard of that. Well, they didn’t have an answer for that.
MassNews: And that happened when?
Camenker: I think that was in 1998.
MassNews: Wasn’t the Parents’ Rights Coalition trying to approach the Dept. of Education before the taping incident at the Tufts conference in March of 2000?
Camenker: Yes. Before the Tufts conference in 2000, we approached the Dept. of Education. Scott Whiteman told them, “This is what is happening in the schools and you need to know about it.” This was in December, several months before the March 2000 conference. We were saying we had been to the last one or two of these conferences and we had seen everything that was going on there. I mean, the literature that was being handed out, everything was absolutely disgusting. The State Board of Education, which includes some people that you would consider conservative like Abigail Thernstrom and Jim Peyser, completely ignored him and in fact laughed at him. They treated him very badly and suggested that he might be homophobic or something and ignored us.
So we knew we had to prove what was going on. The interesting thing is that when Scott went to the March 2000 conference he brought a tape recorder really as an afterthought. If I remember correctly, the idea was if anything interesting happened turn on your tape recorder. It wasn’t planned all that intricately. He just sort of happened to wander into a couple of workshops and it was absolutely horrifying. And you know, I think even more horrifying than what we got out of there was the fact that the people there didn’t think that there was anything abnormal about what they were doing to children. I happened to listen to the tape again recently and it is really, really gross and disgusting. And the fact that these people didn’t think so is very troubling. And in fact Margot Abels is quoted in Bay Windows as saying that she thought it was a very positive experience for children. I mean, this person is a lunatic. These people have no business being around children at all.
MassNews: When you read that interview you must have felt vindicated by what she said.  Abels said they flew below the radar screen for some time with the support of DOE supervisors. It sounds like she knew the public wouldn’t support what they taught the kids behind closed doors.
Camenker: Well you see the DOE tried to paint her as this anomaly, someone who just came in and did something bad. The department is made up of people just as radical as she is and in many cases more radical. And so, when Driscoll, the Commissioner, and the others tried to say that what she had done was unusual and said it would never happen again, they were a bunch of liars. In fact, they weren’t shocked at all. They knew what was going on. They helped her plan it and they approved it at every level. When the people there heard about what she was doing when we first told them about it, they weren’t surprised. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the DOE knew about it and planned it and was actually very comfortable with what she did. The only reason that they fired her was because of the immense public outrage. And you know an interesting thing? Right after the tape became public, Alan Safran, who is the deputy commissioner right under Driscoll called me up and asked me if he could listen to it. We met at an elementary school in Newton. They gave us a room and I played the tape for him in this room.
The fascinating thing was to watch the expression on his face. It was completely blank. He had no emotion about this at all. Most people when they hear this are sickened by it and outraged. Here is the second highest-ranking person in the DOE and his only comment at the end of the tape was, “Boy, it’s time for lunch.” That is literally what he said. He had no emotion at all. He could have been listening to the news for all we know. I think that he was just a little aggravated that we had made it public and he wanted to do what he could to keep the outrage down. You could tell by the look on his face, he was very comfortable with it and had no outrage at all....

See also Massachusetts News  on an article in the homosexual newspaper Bay Windows:

Abels says she was disappointed by lack of support from the homosexual community. The newspaper said, “Abels says there was no sustained support from the gay community on an issue which has broader political implications beyond her losing her job."