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Labor Secretary: Teacher 'Sickouts' Violated Law
By The Associated Press/West Kentucky Star
FRANKFORT - Kentucky's labor secretary says more than 1,000 teachers violated state law by participating in mass rallies at the state Capitol that forced some schools to close.

Labor Secretary David Dickerson said Friday that his agency completed its investigation into teacher "sickouts" that shut down some school districts earlier this year.

Dickerson says the investigation found that 1,074 teachers violated Kentucky law, which prohibits work stoppages by public-sector employees. He says the agency could have assessed civil penalties up to $1,000 per person for each day away from work, but that won't happen this time.

"Let it be clearly understood that the grace extended in this instance will not be extended for future such proven violations," said Dickerson. "The public cannot tolerate another illegal work stoppage in our schools. It is important for public school teachers to understand the level of seriousness that, by law, the Labor Cabinet must and will give to any future work stoppages. We dedicate ourselves to students and parents across the Commonwealth to make sure that this doesn't happen again, and that our schools will remain open."

In May, United States District Judge Danny Reeves acknowledged that the Labor Cabinet had every right to investigate public school teachers for their conduct. 

"Kentucky statutes explicitly grant the Labor Cabinet the authority to prosecute and assess civil penalties against public employees," Reeves said. "Students are expected to attend classes. If they fail to do so without a valid excuse, their absence is duly-noted and appropriate action is taken. But the teachers at the center of this controversy expect[ed] different treatment." 

In response to Friday's announcement, House Democratic Leaders Rocky Adkins, Derrick Graham and Joni Jenkins issued a joint statement, saying, “This administration has tried every trick in the book to undermine our teachers and their supporters. Its Labor Cabinet threatens them with fines for exercising their right to be heard on legislation directly affecting them; its Finance and Administration Cabinet all but locks the doors to the Capitol to shut down any form of dissent; and the governor calls them thugs and tries to take away their retirement. Our teachers - and all of Kentucky - deserve better than this.”  

The protests over several education bills were part of a wave of teacher activism that began last year in West Virginia and spread to several other states, including Oklahoma and Arizona.

Published 05:44 PM, Friday Aug. 16, 2019
Updated 09:13 AM, Wednesday Aug. 21, 2019

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