Teacher Fired For Promotion Of Hemp Gets $70,000 - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Teacher Fired For Promotion Of Hemp Gets $70,000

(FRANKFORT, Ky., July 31st, 2003, 6:30 p.m.) -- A former teacher will receive $70,000 from the Shelby County School District to settle a lawsuit she filed claiming she was wrongfully fired for promoting the legalization of hemp.

The settlement with Donna Cockrel, formerly of Frankfort, was reached Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Frankfort where jury selection was to begin in the suit filed in 1997.

Cockrel came under fire in 1996 when she invited actor Woody Harrelson, an industrial hemp advocate, to talk to her fifth grade students at the Simpsonville Elementary School about his cause.

Accompanying Harrelson were a retired banker and hemp farmers from nations where it's a legal crop. This topic related to Cockrel's agricultural class about alternative crops that could preserve the environment. But hemp is controversial because it can be smoked, causing marijuana-like effects. Cockrel also taught about other fiber crops.

Harrelson made two trips to the Simpsonville school in 1996 and 1997. School officials approved both visits. Forty-four students were kept home one January day in 1997 by their parents to protest Harrelson's visit because they contended he was an unfit role model.

In July of 1997, the school board fired Cockrel, listing 17 reasons, including insubordination.

Cockrel is now teaching in Detroit.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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