By Matt Houston | October 7, 2020 at 2:50 PM CDT – Updated October 7 at 7:02 PM
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – A House committee moved to ensure Jefferson Parish 4th grader, Ka’Mauri Harrison, will get a chance to appeal his school suspension after he was punished for having a BB gun visible in his room during an online class.
Harrison’s teacher says a sibling tripped over the toy gun on the floor, prompting the 9-year-old to move the BB gun onto his desk, in view of the laptop camera. The teacher followed school policy and reported Harrison, but corroborated his explanation.
Even though he was not on campus, the Jefferson Parish school system wanted to expel the student for bringing a weapon to class.
“This is certainly something that I don’t believe was anticipated by the school board that should’ve been anticipated by the school board,” House education chairman, Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, said. “All the statements backed up what Ka’Mauri said. If that’s the case, then this is an injustice.”
The school board reduced their proposed penalty from expulsion to a six-day suspension, which would remain on Harrison’s academic record unless he wins an expulsion appeal. Jefferson Parish schools would not grant that appeal since expulsion was taken off the table, even though it was formally threatened.
“Some students have been expelled or suspended for doing what would be considered normal at home,” Rep. Troy Romero, R-Jennings said.
Romero’s proposal would clarify the law to ensure students who are formally threatened with expulsion can appeal even if their punishment is reduced.
Harrison’s father, Nyron, contacted an attorney and filed suit against the school board.
“We trust these people with our children on an everyday basis to make sound judgmental decisions on their behalf,” Nyron said. “Ka’Mauri is just the first. He still has his children and generations to come after him. Children all across the world are enduring these same injustices in school systems and whatnot.”
Lawmakers named the legislation for Ka’Mauri and stood to applaud him and his father after their testimony.
“I was kind of upset because I wanted to go back because I was bored,” Ka’Mauri said in an interview. “Everybody was at school. I couldn’t play with nobody… [My friends] kept on texting, like, ‘Ka’Mauri, where you been at?’”
Romero’s bill would also require each school district to clarify what school rules also apply for off-campus learning. Schools would have to create written policies for student conduct during online classes.
“We can’t undo what’s happened since [the incident], but we can clear this child’s record,” the Harrison family’s attorney, Chelsea Cusimano, said. “That would be a great step in the right direction.”
The bill advanced to the House floor without opposition.
Copyright 2020 WAFB. All rights reserved.