The ex-student at the center of a controversy involving "safe schools czar" Kevin Jennings is defending the U.S. Education Department official against accusations he failed to report an alleged underage sexual relationship between a former high schooler and "an older man."
The former student, referred to as "Brewster" in media reports and in previous writings by Jennings, said he was actually 16 years old and of legal consensual age at the time of the 1988 incident in Concord, Mass. Media reports had said the teen was 15 at the time, which would have made him underage.
“I was 16 when Kevin gave me the advice he gave me. I was born in July of 1971, and the conversation happened in 1988,” Brewster told FOX News on Friday.
"I had no sexual contact with anybody at the time, though I was entirely legally free to do so," Brewster said in an interview with Media Matters, a left-wing group.
The latest statements by "Brewster" are not entirely consistent with Jennings' various accounts of the 1988 incident, including at least one reference in Jennings' writings and speeches to a "15-year-old" to whom he said “I hope you knew to use a condom.”
"I said, 'What were you doing in Boston on a school night, Brewster?'” Jennings said to a rally in Iowa in 2000.
“He got very quiet, and he finally looked at me and said, 'Well I met someone in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him,'" Jennings recounted. "High school sophomore, 15 years old … I looked at Brewster and said, 'You know, I hope you knew to use a condom.’ He said to me something I will never forget, He said ‘Why should I, my life isn’t worth saving anyway.’'"
A letter filed by Jennings’ lawyer in 2004, however, states that Brewster was 16 at the time.
The lawyer’s letter also stated, in response to an NEA official who accused him of “unethical practices,” that there is no "factual basis" to claim that Jennings "engaged in any unethical practices, or that he was aware of any sexual victimization of any student,” despite Jennings' earlier statement about using a condom.
In his 1994 book, "One Teacher In 10," Jennings simply refers to Brewster as a "sophomore."
In the same book, Jennings says on page 25 that Brewster's relationship was with an "older man."
"On a hunch, I suddenly asked 'What's his name?' Brewster's eyes widened briefly, and then out spilled a story about his involvement with an older man he had met in Boston."
Whatever the precise circumstances of the "Brewster" case, Jennings on Wednesday issued a statement acknowledging the criticism of his role in it.
"Twenty one years later I can see how I should have handled this situation differently," he wrote. "I should have asked for more information and consulted legal or medical authorities."
"Teachers back then had little training or guidance about this kind of thing," Jennings said. "All teachers should have a basic level of preparedness. I would like to see the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools play a bigger role in helping to prepare teachers."
FOX News' Maxim Lott contributed to this report.