Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear says he’ll take Gov. Matt Bevin to court if he doesn’t rescind subpoenas for information about teachers who participated in protests in Frankfort last month.
Last week, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet demanded information from several school districts identifying the names of teachers who called in sick on the same days that protests took place in Frankfort.
Bevin has said he was not involved in the cabinet’s decision to issue the subpoenas.
On Tuesday, Beshear called on Bevin to withdraw the subpoenas, saying that teachers’ actions are protected under the First Amendment.
“The speech here was teachers’ speech against our state government and what it was doing. And now that same state government is trying to step in front of the school districts to punish the teachers for the very speech against the state government,” Beshear said.
Beshear also said that the administration’s actions violate labor law by amounting to “intimidation, threats and coercion.”
The development is the latest in a series of legal conflicts between the state’s Democratic attorney general and Bevin, a Republican. Both are running for governor this year.
Teachers from around the state called in sick to participate in a series of protests during this year’s state legislative session.
State law bans public employees from participating in strikes, and any employee who breaks that law may be fined from $100 to $1,000.
But Beshear said that teachers didn’t break the law by participating in the sickouts.
“These teachers weren’t up here because they were trying to get paid more, they weren’t up here because they thought their work conditions in their schools were problematic, they were up here fighting for the very future of education,” Beshear said.
The demonstrations sprouted in opposition to proposals that would have remade the makeup of the board that oversees teacher pensions, and another one that would have provided tax credits for donations to private schools.
Several school districts closed as a result, including Louisville’s public school system, which closed for six days.
Beshear said he will sue Bevin if he doesn’t rescind the subpoenas within 10 days.