HARVEY, La. (WGNO) – A Louisiana fourth grader was suspended for handling a BB gun during a virtual classroom session, but a lawyer representing the student’s family says the punishment was too harsh.
9-year-old Ka Mauri Harrison was in his bedroom taking a Social Studies test virtually on the afternoon of September 11 when the incident occurred, according to attorney Chelsea Brener Cusimano, who represents the Harrison family.
Harrison, who is one of five school-aged children in the home enrolled in the Jefferson Parish Public School System, shares a bedroom with two of his brothers. One of those brothers either stepped on or knocked over a BB gun while Harrison was taking the test, Cusimano said.
Harrison picked up the BB gun, placed it on the chair next to him, and continued taking the test, according to the family’s account.
Harrison’s teacher and classmates witnessed the incident through the distance learning video system used to administer the class. The teacher immediately intervened, and Harrison was suspended from Woodmere Elementary that same day, according to Cusimano.
In a letter to the school district, Cusimano said she is unclear on the rules pertaining to handling BB guns while distance learning.
“Quickly, I have reviewed the Policies and Procedures of Jefferson Parish Schools sent to me today and, in particular, the provision related to bringing weapons to a school and a recommendation for expulsion for the same,” Cusimano wrote. “I simply cannot make the connection to what occurred in Ka Mauri’s bedroom (in the safety of his own home) while he was taking a Distance Learning test and the Jefferson Parish School policy for expulsion regarding weapons and ‘weapons prohibited under federal law.'”
According to documents from the school district, Harrison was suspended for six days for “displaying a facsimile weapon while receiving virtual instruction from Woodmere Elementary School.” Cusimano says the suspension actually took effect earlier than the district claims, adding several days to the punishment.
A letter to the Harrison family from the district cites “Jefferson Parish Public School Policy and Procedures 2019-21-Possession of a Starter Gun, Stun Gun and/or Facsimile.”
Cusimano says the district’s policy does not explicitly take into account distance learning or what a student may do while in the privacy of their own bedroom.
Jefferson Parish Schools director of communication Vicki Bristol declined to comment on the case.
“We do not comment on individual student records,” Bristol said. “Regarding discipline, it is our policy that teachers and administrators may employ reasonable disciplinary and corrective measures to maintain order.”