UPDATE | AG Beshear demands state leaders rescind teacher sickout subpoenas

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 4/16/19 @ 10:50 a.m.
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is demanding Gov. Matt Bevin and state leaders rescind subpoenas that were sent to school districts regarding teachers who called off work to rally against legislation.

"These teachers weren't looking out for themselves or their work conditions," said Beshear. "They were fighting for the future of public education and its funding."

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet is issuing the subpoenas, requesting records from the March teacher sickouts. State officials want the names of teachers who might have used sick days to rally at the state Capitol.

"They were issued by the Labor Cabinet as part of a supposed inquiry into possible violations of labor law," said Beshear. "The education commissioner recently stated such violations could result in $1,000 fines to individual teachers."

At least seven districts confirmed receiving the subpoenas: Carter, Boyd, Fayette, Madison, Oldham, Jefferson and Bullitt County school systems.

Beshear called the subpoenas "unlawful" and had a press conference Tuesday morning.

"I've had enough and I think our teachers have had enough too," he said at the press conference.

The attorney general's office sent a letter to Gov. Bevin and Labor Cabinet Secretary David Dickerson Tuesday, asking that the subpoenas be withdrawn within 10 days.

In the letter, Beshear states, "Because the 'sickouts' were not related to the conditions of the teachers’ employment, but instead driven by their objections to legislation that would harm the overall financial and structural support of the public school system, the 'sickouts' constitute free speech protected by the First Amendment."

He also said officials behind the subpoenas come dangerously close themselves to violating labor law. "You cannot engage in intimidation, threats, and coercion," said Beshear. "In between the governor, the commissioner of education, and the secretary of labor with these actions -- their actions either have or are coming very close to crossing that line which will make them further unlawful."

If the Labor Cabinet does not rescind the subpoenas, Beshear simply stated, "Then we'll take them to court."

“The governor and his administration are directly threatening teachers in an attempt to keep them from exercising their constitutional rights,” said Beshear. “These ‘sickout’ subpoenas represent another abuse of power by the governor and they must be rescinded.”

UPDATE 4/15/19 @ 2:36 p.m.
WSAZ has learned about another school district in Kentucky that received a subpoena concerning the teacher sickouts.

Carter County Schools Superintendent Ronnie Dotson confirms his district received the request from Gov. Matt Bevin's administration.

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet is issuing the subpoenas, requesting records from the March teacher sickouts. State officials want the names of teachers who might have used sick days to rally at the state Capitol.

This makes at least seven districts that have reported receiving subpoenas. The others are Boyd, Fayette, Madison, Oldham, Jefferson and Bullitt County school systems.

The sickouts forced some districts to shut down for a few days while Kentucky's legislature was in session this year, drawing Gov. Bevin's criticism. Teachers' concerns included a tax-credit bill for families sending children to private schools. The bill died.

An attorney has threatened to sue the Kentucky Department of Education for seeking the names of teachers who used sick days to protest.

UPDATE 4/12/19 @ 5:58 p.m.
Boyd County Public Schools is the latest school district in Kentucky to confirm that it received a subpoena from Gov. Matt Bevin's administration.

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet is issuing the subpoenas, requesting records from the March teacher sickouts. State officials want the names of teachers who might have used sick days to rally at the state Capitol.

Boyd County Public Schools Superintendent Bill Boblett confirms to WSAZ the subpoena came Thursday. He could not provide any additional details.

This makes at least six districts that have reported receiving subpoenas. The others are Fayette, Madison, Oldham, Jefferson and Bullitt County school systems.

The sickouts forced some districts to shut down for a few days while Kentucky's legislature was in session this year, drawing Gov. Bevin's criticism. Teachers' concerns included a tax-credit bill for families sending children to private schools. The bill died.

An attorney has threatened to sue the Kentucky Department of Education for seeking the names of teachers who used sick days to protest.

Boyd County Education Association President Missy Salyers released a statement saying, "The subpoena given to Boyd County doesn’t come as a surprise. One thing about Bevin is he’s predictable! This is nothing but bullying from a man that should know better! Teachers by nature are rule followers and it wasn’t until taking money from our kids was put on the table again that we said enough is enough! Our kids are more than worth all of this! We will not be silenced and we are not intimidated. We are teachers that are use to tantrums (even though this time it’s coming from an adult that should know better). We are united and we are KEA!"

ORIGINAL STORY 4/11/19
Fayette and Madison County Schools have confirmed to WKYT the districts have received a subpoena from the Bevin administration.

A Fayette County district spokeswoman issued the following statement:

"Our school district has received the subpoena and not yet reviewed it. We believe the guidance and leadership provided by Commissioner Lewis has sufficiently addressed any concerns. As Superintendent Caulk has previously told the committed men and women who work in the Fayette County Public Schools, we are confident that no adverse action can legally be taken against any of our employees. If any such action is attempted, the district will take legal steps to vociferously defend them. In FCPS we remain focused on what’s most important – working with our partners at the Kentucky Department of Education to ensure that all students achieve at high levels and graduate prepared to excel in a global society.”

Madison County Schools also received the subpoena from the Kentucky Labor Cabinet Thursday morning.

This is the fourth school district that has confirmed it received a subpoena, as the Bevin administration is requesting records from last month's teacher sickouts.

The district believes the subpoena it received is similar to the ones received by Oldham, Jefferson and Bullitt County school systems.






 
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