Kevin Jennings
Kevin Jennings

The founder and former executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has been appointed to a position in the Obama Administration’s Education Department.

Decided on May 19 and announced by the White House on June 1, Winston-Salem, N.C.-native Kevin Jennings will become the assistant deputy secretary of education for the department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. The office oversees financial assistance for drug and violence prevention and is in charge of developing program policy for the Department of Education.

Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s executive director, praised her predecessor’s achievement.

“This appointment is a tribute to Kevin’s many contributions to education in this country and his commitment to the safety and well being of all students,” she said.

According to The Washington Blade, conservatives have already expressed their outrage over the appointment. WorldNetDaily, a conservative news website, quoted Linda Harvey of the anti-gay Mission America; she said it was a “tragedy” that an openly gay person would be appointed to the position.

Harvey said Jennings has “had an enormously detrimental impact on the climate in our schools,” The Blade reported.

Jennings grew up right outside of Winston-Salem, in small town Lewisville, N.C. He is the son of a Baptist preacher. His memoir, “Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son,” recounts his life growing up in conservative North Carolina. He later went to Harvard College, graduating magna cum laude, and moved to New England, where he founded GLSEN.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.