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Department Of Education Gives Teacher ‘Sickout’ Names To Labor Cabinet

Ryland Barton

The Kentucky Department of Education has handed over records to the Labor Cabinet that could identify teachers who participated in a sickout at the state Capitol that closed Jefferson County Public Schools for six days this spring.

Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Jessica Fletcher confirmed the department received a subpoena from the Labor Cabinet Thursday demanding the records by the end of the day.

KDE had the attendance records in hand. In March, KDE itself had required 10 school districts, including JCPS, to send documents regarding the days schools closed due to the protests. At that time, Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis said the department would not directly punish teachers, but indicated in a press release that the Labor Cabinet could investigate the matter and seek to fine teachers up to $1,000.

The Labor Cabinet then subpoenaed school districts for the same records. Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and the Jefferson County Teachers Association filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block that action. In a hearing scheduled for this coming Monday, a judge will consider whether to grant Beshear and JCTA’s request for an injunction against the subpoenas the Labor Cabinet delivered to school districts. Now that lawsuit is moot.

Beshear responded on Twitter Thursday night:

Lewis responded to the day’s events in a written statement:

Credit screenshot
Statement from Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis emailed by Kentucky Department of Education communication spokeswoman.

Lewis pointed out in his statement that the complaint Beshear filed suggested it would have been easier if the Labor Cabinet had sought the records from the Department of Education directly.  The Bevin administration apparently took that advice.

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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