top of page

1997 | Woody Harrelson issues statement on Donna Cockrel termination

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

The following article was originally published on Monday, August 18, 1997 by the Lexington Herald-Leader on page A8 of the Commentary section.


I remember when I first met Donna Cockrel and saw her rapport with the children in her class, her passion for teaching and the respect and interest they showed for her. I wished I had a teacher like her when I was in the fifth grade.

Unfortunately, she has spent much of the last year under fire and constantly criticized since I first visited her class at Simpsonville Elementary. It has taken an emotional toll on her to feel continually maligned by fellow teachers, administrators and irate parents.

Donna was fired, not for the reasons the school board gave , but simply for telling the truth about a plant. A plant that was once the No.1 cash crop in Kentucky, a plant that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew, a plant that Henry Ford used to make the first fuel and automobile body, a plant that could help replace trees for paper and petroleum for plastic, a plant that may not be the cure-all but could certainly help farmers.

My hat is off to Donna, one of those rare teachers who stands up, tells the truth, and fights for what she believes in. The saddest part of this whole situation is that no one thought to ask the students their opinion. All of the students I talked with had no trouble understanding what hemp is, it's distinction from marijuana, it's agricultural and industrial benefits.

And none of them, I believe, would agree with the school board's decision to let go of one of their favorite teachers. A curious example for children if ever there was one: A teacher who cares is fired for telling the truth.

Woody Harrelson

Los Angeles, Calif

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

1996 | Woody Harrelson speaks at Simpsonville Elementary

1996 | Woody Harrelson arrested for planting hemp in Kentucky

1996 | Donna Cockrel investigated after Woody Harrelson hemp presentation

1996 | Kentucky Hemp Museum & Library launches mobile exhibit

1996 | Woody Harrelson launches hemp essay contest

1996 | School trys to revoke Donna Cockrel's teaching certificate

1996 | Woody Harrelson defends Donna Cockrel

1996 | Woody Harrelson announces hemp essay winners

1996 | Charges dismissed against Woody Harrelson for Kentucky hemp planting

1997 | Kentucky Hemp Museum takes Harrelson, Cockrel and essay winner to movie premiere

1997 | Parents protest against Woody Harrelson's scheduled second visit

1997 | Court finds statute "overbroad" after Harrelson charges are dismissed

1997 | Woody Harrelson makes second visit to Simpsonville Elementary

1997 | Parents want Donna Cockrel fired after second Woody Harrelson hemp presentation

1997 | School Evaluation Claims Donna Cockrel Fails to Meet Performance Requirements

1997 | Kentucky General Assembly Hears Testimony On Hemp

1997 | Donna Cockrel is fired from Simpsonville Elementary

1997 | Woody Harrelson issues statement regarding Donna Cockrel's termination

1998 | Cockrel files suit against Shelby County schools

1998 | Farmers sue to overturn ban on hemp

2000 | Kentucky Supreme Court rules no distinction between hemp and marijuana

2000 | Woody Harrelson acquitted of hemp charges

2001 | Court reverses decision in Donna Cockrel vs. Shelby County schools

2003 | Donna Cockrel receives $70,000 settlement



August 18, 1997, Lexington Herald-Leader

240 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page