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Kentucky Labor Cabinet Subpoenas JCPS Over ‘Sickouts’

Liz Schlemmer

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet has subpoenaed Jefferson County Public Schools, in relation to teacher-led sickouts that forced the school district to close six days while educators protested at the state legislature.

A JCPS spokeswoman confirmed that district officials received the subpoena Wednesday afternoon, and the district later released a copy of the subpoena. The Labor Cabinet’s deputy secretary and communications staff did not respond to a request for information regarding the subpoena, which was first reported by Insider Louisville

The subpoena commands JCPS to release:

  • all records that identify the names of JCPS employees who called in sick during the six days that the district closed in February and March due to teacher absences
  • copies of records such as doctor’s notes used to authenticate employees’ use of sick leave
  • records of communication among JCPS officials about their decision to close schools
  • documentation of the district’s sick leave policy

State law bans public employees from participating in work stoppages, and any employee who breaks that law may be fined from $100 to $1,000.

In March, JCPS and nine other districts compiled similar records and submitted them to the Kentucky Department of Education, following a request from Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis for the names of employees who called in sick on the days schools were forced to close.

After receiving those records, Lewis said he would leave disciplinary measures for school employees up to district officials. In a statement to school districts, KDE recommended districts revise their sick leave policies to:

  • Discipline teachers found to have falsified sick leave requests, up to and including termination.
  • Preserve a list of teacher sick leave requests, and if district officials suspect requests have been made to force an illegal work stoppage, to submit that list to the Secretary of Labor for investigation.

While Lewis told school districts that the Department of Education would not take unilateral action to punish teachers who may have violated that law, it appears the Labor Cabinet is now taking the matter into its own hands.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Policy Reporter, a fellowship position supported by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. She has an M.A. from the UNC Chapel Hill School of Media & Journalism and a B.A. in history and anthropology from Indiana University.
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