Gay Rights Activists Blast Obama, Duncan, Jennings on Bullying

Posted by on October 6, 2010

Recent teen suicides and high-profile bullying cases are being ignored by the Obama Administration, according to gay rights activists. 

Advocates have been increasingly critical of President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and his Assistant Deputy Secretary for safe schools, Kevin Jennings, for what they call their silence on bullying incidents involving gays.  They have also been critical of GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network).

Veteran Advocate Michael Petrelis Highly Critical of “Gay Inc.” and Obama Administration Officials’ Silence on Bullying and Suicides

Michael Petrelis, a veteran gay and aids human rights advocate, authors ongoing critiques particularly focused on Kevin Jennings, the openly gay founder of GLSEN and Obama’s current Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug Free Schools in the U.S. Department of Education. 

Mr Petrelis has written several recent critical posts on his Petrelis Files blog including:

Mr. Petrelis has also been critical of the Democratic Party, and refers to the “Gay Inc.” advocacy groups’ leaders as lacking action on recent high-profile suicides and bullying incidents.

Other gay news publications have also challenged, and pressured, Mr. Jennings and the Obama Administration:  Why Are Kevin Jennings + GLSEN Completely Silent On September’s 4 Gay Bullying Suicides?

Gay Rights Advocates’ Criticism Triggers Education Department Response — Sort Of

In one of the latest “late Friday PR dumps” I have seen out of DC, in particular from the U.S. Department of Education, Kevin Jennings and Secretary Arne Duncan issued the following statements after 6:00pm on Friday, October 1st:

——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.


View U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s statement:


Mr. Petrelis and others, including myself, were skeptical on the late Friday timing of these messages. The tactic of late Friday media releases to drop what a government agency considers “bad news” or politically problematic news they can no longer be silent on is an old public relations trick.

Why Should You Care? What Does This Mean for Front Line Educators, School Safety Professionals, and Parents?

If you don’t think this is relevant to you as an educator, school administrator, or school safety professional — wake up and smell the roses.

The level and intensity of political dynamics influencing federal school safety policy and funding, as well as state-level activities, is unprecedented based on my experience of over 25 years in the school safety field.  Special interest advocates lobbying for anti-bullying bills, many little more than civil rights bills disguised as anti-bullying and school safety laws, is more intense than ever.  And the outcome will have a direct impact on your work on the front lines of school safety.

Activists like Michael Petrelis question whether an anti-bullying bill will have any true impact.  So do I and many others.  If anything, I believe the vague anti-bullying bills, increased overreach by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice into local bullying incidents, and the overall politicization of school safety will make educators more inclined to suppress their efforts to be more proactive in tackling the bullying incidents.  It will also create a climate of anxiety and hesitancy to tackle the broader underlying issues activists like Mr. Petrelis and others have longed for in their years of advocacy.

Creating new laws may open up avenues for more litigation, more bureaucratic hurdles for educators, and more financial opportunities for what Mr. Petrelis refers to as “Gay Inc.”  But will doing so really change the mindsets and create the desired cultural changes at the heart of efforts by veteran activists like Michael Petrelis and others?

Ken Trump

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