Kentucky finds 1,000 teachers violated law during 'sickout' protests

Posted at 6:06 PM, Aug 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-16 19:01:48-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — 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.

But Labor Secretary David Dickerson says no penalties will be assessed. Dickerson is part of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's administration.

Dickerson said Friday that his agency completed its investigation into teacher sickouts that shut down some schools earlier this year.

Dickerson says the investigation found more than 1,000 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.

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

In a statement Friday afternoon, the Kentucky Educators Association called Dickerson's announcement that protesting teachers had broken the law a "veiled threat" and characterized it as the latest of the Bevin administration's attacks on educators.

"During his term as governor, Bevin has taken every opportunity to vilify and persecute educators for their advocacy and activism," the group wrote. "He called educators thugs and accused them of being responsible for shootings, drug use and sexual assault of children. Kentuckians know better than to listen to his unfounded attacks. The announcement made today by the Bevin administration is yet another scare tactic to try to intimidate educators and public education supporters from having their voices heard in Frankfort."

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat who hopes to beat Bevin in the gubernatorial race this November, agreed.

"The only person who broke the law was Matt Bevin when he tried to lock teachers out of their Capitol," he said in a statement. "So let's be clear: Future attempts to threaten teachers will not be tolerated & we'll win again just like how we stopped him from fining teachers today."