Kentucky’s interim education chief promises to support ‘every child,’ including LGBTQ kids

In the face of questions about her position on LGBTQ students across Kentucky, interim Education Commissioner Robin Kinney said she would support all students.

Jason Glass, who most recently held the state’s top education job, said he left the Education Commissioner role because he didn’t want to enforce the “dangerous and unconstitutional” Senate Bill 150 that critics have called an anti-LGBTQ measure.

Glass’ support of LGBTQ students and inclusive policies led some members of the Republican General Assembly to call for his ouster in this year’s General Assembly and in the months after.

“I don’t know that I anticipate having the same problem, I guess that’s yet to be seen,” Kinney said on Monday as she began her tenure.

“I have respect for Dr. Glass’s personal convictions and the decision he made for himself and his family. I’m going to trust the process and let that play out, but we still will support each and every child, so I don’t anticipate any negative results as a result of that,” Kinney said.

The department would serve all children, “each child, every child, every day,” she said.

Before his departure, Glass had said the Kentucky Department of Education was going to have a pro-LGBTQ summit in the fall.

Kinney said she did not anticipate having the summit in the interim before the General Assembly begins “but it will be on the list of things that we share with the incoming new permanent commissioner.”

KDE spokesperson Toni Konz Tatman said, “It takes a lot of time to plan a large gathering like a Summit and we did not have enough time to get that planned for this fall as initially announced by Commissioner Glass.”

Glass left his post September 29 to become an associate vice-president at Western Michigan University.

Kinney said her goals as interim are to keep moving forward, to be responsive to school districts, superintendents and parents, and to be effective in the next legislative session.

The Education Department is hoping to hire a new commissioner sooner than the eight months that it took the last time, but it’s important that the search be thorough, Kinney said.

Glass was a “really great person to work with and for, and so it’s always hard when we have a change,” Kinney said

Kinney does not expect to make any sweeping policy changes during her tenure, she said. She is not in the running for the permanent position.

The 2023 General Assembly passed a new law that requires an education commissioner to be confirmed by the Kentucky Senate. Kinney said she had not spoken to lawmakers about the process but was “ready and willing” to be confirmed if necessary.

Angela Billings, a spokesperson for the Senate Majority Caucus, said the law did not address interim education commissioners.

Kinney said she would not comment on ongoing lawsuits regarding SB 150. Five Lexington transgender children and their families filed a class-action lawsuit last week in Fayette County challenging a GOP-backed law’s pronoun and bathroom requirements in public schools.