Teacher protest at Capitol

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is threatening to sue Gov. Matt Bevin over his administration’s response to the teacher sick outs held during the 2019 session of the General Assembly.

Beshear said the Bevin administration may be breaking the law by demanding the names of the teachers involved in those sick outs.

Teachers called in sick, shutting down schools six times to protest education bills they opposed.

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet has subpoenaed several school districts, including JCPS, demanding the names of teachers who called in sick and documentation. The cabinet could potentially fine teachers involved in the sick out.

“The subpoenas issued by the labor cabinet are unlawful,” Beshear told reporters Tuesday at a news conference in Frankfort. “And they are another attempt by this governor to bully our teachers.”

Beshear sent a letter to Bevin and Labor Secretary David Dickerson demanding that they “voluntarily withdraw these unlawful subpoenas.” Beshear said the teachers are protected by the First Amendment because they did not, technically, go on strike, which would be illegal.

“These teachers weren't looking out for themselves or their work conditions,” he said. “They were fighting for the future of public education, and it's funding. And as we've seen in a similar case in Detroit on sick outs, that speech is protected.”

Beshear said if the subpoenas are not withdrawn within ten days, he will go to court.

Bevin has denied he is behind the subpoenas. When asked about Beshear’s threatened lawsuit, he feigned surprise. Beshear has already sued Bevin seven times.

“What? I was accused by the attorney general? What? That's craziness,” Bevin said sarcastically.

As for Beshear’s claim that the subpoenas are illegal, Bevin said, “Well, the attorney general says a lot of things.”

Beshear is running for governor in the Democratic primary, but he denies any political motive.

“I might be running for governor, but I still have a job as attorney general," he said. "And my job is to stand up for people when they're being bullied, especially by their own state government."

In a statement, labor cabinet Spokeswoman Haley Bradburn said, “Attorney General Beshear is wrong. The Labor Cabinet has complied and will continue to comply with Kentucky law.”

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I cover a range of stories for WDRB, but really enjoy tracking what's going on at our State Capitol. I grew up on military bases all over the world, but am a Kentuckian at heart. I'm an EKU alum, and have lived in Louisville for 30 years.