Teacher Slandered, Colo. Jury Finds

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A district-court jury in Adams County, Colo., has found three parents guilty of slandering an elementary-school teacher that they claimed taught students witchcraft and occult sciences.

The jury awarded $110,500 in damages late last month to Jan Cole, who teaches 6th grade at Malley Elementary School in North Glen. The jurors agreed that Ms. Cole's professional reputation had been harmed by the parents' statements.

The suit arose from a dispute that began in the fall of 1984, when the parents told school officials that Ms. Cole was teaching witchcraft. Ms. Cole filed the defamation suit in September 1985, after the district cleared her of the accusations.

The parents, William and Arlene Lehman and Sandy Montoya, objected to 32 of Ms. Cole's classroom practices, including teaching students relaxation techniques and playing classical flute music as a relaxation exercise.

Ms. Cole, who has taught in the school district for 19 years, said last week that she would continue to use "creative'' teaching techniques.

At the trial, the parents argued that they were exercising their rights when they approached officials about the teacher, and that they had not acted in reckless disregard of the truth.--K.G.

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