Sickouts still happened despite district’s plan with union, so who organized them?

Social media organization helping Kentucky teachers arrange sickouts

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Jefferson County students were out of school again Wednesday as teacher call outs caused the district to cancel class for the fifth time in two weeks.

The local teachers’ union, the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA), worked with the district to prevent this, but their plan fell flat as teachers organized a sickout through social media anyway.

Last spring, KY 120 United successfully organized protests of the pension reform bill. But this year, they didn’t call for the teacher sickouts.

Instead, several Facebook pages led by JCPS teachers have popped up over the last few weeks.

“Because the legislation affects us so differently than it does the rest of the state, the teachers are pretty united on the message that we want -- but at the same time there’s some teachers that feel more action should be taken,” Noe Middle School teacher Jason Nelson said.

Last week, he created the Kentucky Teacher Demands page on Facebook.

“There are groups of teachers in JCPS who feel like we’re in a unique situation and we need to take the lead," Nelson said. “And we need to step up and educate the public.”

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Nelson said his page is focused on sharing information, not making calls to action.

Before he branched off with his own page, Nelson was part of JCPS Leads. The secret Facebook group has since become a space to make sickout plans.

Posts are often shared on public pages.

“The community needs to be able to participate in this dialogue and participate in the shaping of our public schools,” Gay Adelmann, of Dear JCPS, said.

Dear JCPS was started a few years ago by Shawnee parents. Now it has more than 10,000 followers, acting as a sounding board for parents and teachers across the district.

"A lot of the messages have been controlled from the top down, up until now,” Adelmann said. “With the advent of social media it has definitely made it easier for grassroots groups to organize and for rank and file teachers to communicate.”

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