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: