Parents criticize comments made by KDE commissioner about COVID-19 protocols

Posted at 10:20 PM, Jul 27, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Some parents are calling for the Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner to resign after comments he made in a meeting Tuesday about messages the department receives from people on masking and other COVID protocols.

In the Local Superintendents Advisory Council meeting, KDE Commissioner Jason Glass spoke about the many messages he knows superintendents receive on masking.

"I certainly get those too and we've developed a process for handling them at KDE," he said. "It's become kind of a daily thing and so we have kind of an assembly line format that handles so it's a mild nuisance but we get them on a regular basis."

"For me, I look through those and read them, but I balance those perspectives against what the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, our state health experts, what our health experts have told us is the right thing to do," he added. "And for me, there is no debate. Why in the world would I listen to an uninformed, politically biased opinion about what we need to do to keep our schools safe when we know the things that are effective at keeping our schools safe? And we have all of this - people who have spent their entire professional lives thinking about how to control viruses informing us on what to do. So my recommendations, our stance from KDE will not be influenced by emails that are coming in. We're going to be grounded in the science, we're going to be grounded in the evidence and that's going to form the basis of our perspective going forward."

But Heather and Nate Hall, who have two children in elementary school in Jessamine County, said they were offended by the commissioner's comments.

They heard the comments made in the meeting via a live stream on the "Let them Learn" Facebook page.

"My jaw hit the table because I didn't expect a government official to talk that way about the constituents, about the parents," Nate Hall said.

"It's their responsibility to listen to the people of the state and take those concerns seriously, not dismiss them as some conspiracy theory or political agenda of the alt-right or something like that," he said.

The Halls' children struggled with masks last school year, he said, and he believes it should be up to the parents to decide whether or not to have their kids wear masks to school.

"We saw them get off the bus with open sores on their faces, with masks that they chewed holes through and they were soaking wet," he said. "Our son even brought a friend's mask home. They switched on the playground."

He called for Commissioner Glass to resign following his comments on Tuesday.

"When we express our concerns, for you to dismiss that, for him to do what he did, is pretty much unforgivable at that point," he said.

When asked about the concerns raised by the Halls and other parents in response to Commissioner Glass's comments, Chief Communications Officer Toni Konz Tatman sent this response via email:

It is the Kentucky Department of Education’s policy and practice to be responsive to questions and concerns that come into the agency in a timely manner.

Over the past couple of weeks, KDE and Dr. Glass have received numerous emails regarding face masks or other COVID-19 mitigation strategies as we prepare for the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Masking is an important topic that many of our families and communities feel very passionately about, whether they are for or against students wearing them in schools.

During today’s Local School Superintendents Advisory Council (LSAC) meeting, some of our superintendents mentioned the large number of communications they have been receiving over these concerns. Dr. Glass shared that KDE has a system for handling such messages and noted his frustration at the amount of time it takes for KDE staff to log and process each of the emails.

As you can see from his comments (below) to LSAC, Dr. Glass reads the messages that come into his inbox and he appreciates and is always willing to hear from the people who are most connected to public education in Kentucky and that includes our students and our families. He also said his recommendations to schools regarding COVID-19 would be based on science and public health expertise.

We all want our students in schools for in-person learning and to have this pandemic behind us.