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

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

On November 9, 2001, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in Donna Cockrel vs. Shelby County Schools in a Kentucky court, and remanded the case for trial. A vehement opinion ruled that a lower court erred when it threw out Donna Cockrel’s lawsuit against the Shelby County Public School District before the case went to trial.

The appellate court held that the issue was, in fact, one of public concern, citing the trial court's own opinion, where it said that "the issue of industrial hemp is politically charged and of great concern to certain citizens."

The court acknowledged that Cockrel's speech had led to some problems, but it also observed that school officials told CNN that there was "educational value" in teaching about industrial hemp and that, more important, school officials had given prior approval for the visits.

The appellate court’s three-member panel unanimously said schoolteachers retain the right to free speech not just in the schoolhouse, but also in the classroom. Case will now go to trial.

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



D.Horrigan, 2001. The National Law Journal. (CA) 2001 NLP IP Company

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