Teacher says state’s ‘sickouts’ ruling is a threat

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/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.

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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.

Jeni Bolander was among the thousands of teachers protesting this spring, although she used personal time off, not sick days, she says what the labor cabinet announced is a threat.

“The Kentucky Labor Cabinet threatening us and saying no more, or we’ll fine you as if we we’re children,” she said. “It’s almost like nobody in the state, except for possibly the Attorney General, treats us like we’re actual adults and professionals.”

Bolander said this is only a small part of the long battle with Governor Matt Bevin’s administration.

“It’s the long game, we’re playing chess, not checkers,” she said.

While Bolander is a teacher, she’s also a mother. Her daughter is about to start school.

“I have to fight for my daughter, I have to fight for other people’s daughters and their children, the kids in my classroom in the future, because I truly want a better Kentucky,” Bolander said.

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Monica Harkins joined the ABC 36 News team in June 2019 as a Multimedia journalist and Anchor/Producer. She’s born and raised in Austin, Texas and headed “North,” as she calls it, to study broadcast journalism and business at the University of Missouri. While at Mizzou she anchored and reported for KOMU 8 News, an NBC affiliate in Columbia, Missouri all four years. During her childhood she played almost every sport, but they always called her “Hollywood” for her love of theatre. In high school, she realized her excitement for theatre and performing was only a small piece of the puzzle. It’s story telling that’s her passion. She’s especially passionate about social media and creative platforms to tell stories. Her most recent experiment is being a FAA certified drone pilot. As a proud Texan she says she’s made of country music, Southern hospitality and Sweet Tea. When she’s not at work you can find her trying new recipes, listening to crime podcasts, reading the latest romance novel or rockin’ out to live music with friends. She says she’s only a tweet or Facebook message away, so say hi and send her the latest on your community. @MonicaHarkinstv or Mharkins@wtvq.com