Teachers protest in Frankfort

Teachers protest at the Capitol during the sixth "sick out" in two weeks for JCPS, Thursday, March 14. (WDRB Photo)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Questions are being raised about the legality of so-called "sickout" subpoenas issued by Kentucky's Labor Cabinet to school districts.

Attorney General Andy Beshear, who is running for governor, is calling on Gov. Matt Bevin and the cabinet to rescind what he called the "unlawful" subpoenas sent to Kentucky school districts. Beshear sent Bevin and Secretary David Dickerson a letter giving them ten days to take action or he will likely take the administration to court.

The subpoenas demand the release of names of teachers who called out sick to protest pensions and other issues in Frankfort. Widespread call-outs forced the cancellation of classes on multiple days in Jefferson, Bullitt and Oldham Counties.

Beshear says the subpoenas violate the teachers' first amendment rights and could be considered unlawful threats and coercion under Kentucky law.

"They are unlawful because the speech being engaged in by these teachers is protected by the first amendment. These teachers weren't looking out for themselves or their work conditions. They were fighting for the future of public education and its funding," said Beshear.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lucas says the request for names of teachers involved in the "sick outs" is not a scare tactic. He says he hopes to develop a policy that would allow teachers to voice opposition to legislation without closings schools. But he also suggested that individual teachers would be fined $1,000 for violating school policies.

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