Following a wave of “sick outs” across the state, Kentucky’s Education Commissioner Wayne D. Lewis held a press conference Friday that produced more questions than answers.
During the 20 minute press conference, that streamed live on Facebook, Lewis sounded a repeat refrain - teachers can’t take sick days when they aren’t sick and taking those days to protest in Frankfort robs children of important instructional time.
Teachers, he said, have a constitutional right to protest.
“But teachers do not have the constitutional right to call in sick when you are not sick and force a work stoppage that results in Kentucky schools closing,” he said.
As the live stream continued the screen was filled with a cascade of angry face emojis with only the occassional thumbs up.
Lewis has requested the names of teachers from 10 districts where enough teachers called in sick that schools closed. Lewis was asked repeatedly if he planned disciplinary action against those teachers. He refused to give a definite answer. Instead he said he couldn’t completely rule out disciplinary action because he has not yet reviewed the information he has requested. That information, he said, might reveal a need for action.
But he said the “sick outs” could set up a bad precedent for how sick days are viewed.
“None of us want to be in a situation where we're having to advocate for the continued protection of teacher sick days because there's an argument that they are being abused,” he said.
Madison and Fayette counties are among the districts which closed schools. Lewis singled out Jefferson County as being of special concern because schools closed six times in two weeks.
The other counties are Bath, Boyd, Bullitt, Carter, Letcher, Marion and Oldham. Lewis has requested the information be delivered by end of business Monday, March 18.
Lewis said he has not yet received the information he has requested from the districts. He has also not heard from any district that they will decline to share the information requested.