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1997 | Fifth grade Kentucky teacher fired for teaching students about hemp

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

Donna Cockrel was notified of her termination from Simpsonville Elementary School by the Shelby County School district Superintentent on July 15, 1997. The termination letter informed Cockrel of her discharge, detailing numerous instances of misconduct, all of which allegedly served as the basis for her discharge. Several of these charges detailed misconduct that occurred prior to Woody Harrelson's initial visit to Simpsonville Elementary. There is no evidence in the record, however, that Cockrel had been reprimanded for such activity prior to Harrelson's visits to her classroom.

The Superintendent then forwarded on to the EPSB (Education Professional Standards Board) the proffered reasons for terminating Cockrel and went on to in request a revoking of Cockrel's teaching certificate. Following review by the EPSB, Cockrel entered into a written agreement whereby her teaching certificate was surrendered for two years (June 1997 to June 1999) and suspended for two years (July 1, 1999 through June 30, 2001). The agreement stated, in part:

"While Cockrel denies any wrongdoing and further denies that her conduct is in any way a violation of KRS 161.120 and/or the Professional Code of Ethics for Kentucky School Personnel, she agrees that the evidence, when presented at formal hearing, is such to result in a finding on all charges that her conduct is in violation of KRS 161.120, and the Professional Code of Ethics for Kentucky School Personnel. Therefore, Cockrel believes that it is in her best interest at this time to enter into this Agreed Order."

Click the links below to learn more about the Harrelson and Cockrel trials:



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