Ka’Mauri Harrison, 9, is a fourth-grader at Woodmere Elementary in Harvey, Louisiana.
He was suspended from school after a teacher reported seeing a gun in his bedroom during a virtual class. But, according to the attorney representing the boy’s family, the teacher has seen a BB gun and that the school overstepped by applying its on-campus weapons policy to the incident, thereby violating the privacy rights of the child and his family.
On Friday, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced that his office is investigating the incident.
“I am alarmed by what appears to not only be multiple violations of both the State and Federal Constitutions, but also blatant government overreach by the school system,” Landry said in a statement released on CNN.
“For anyone to conclude that a student’s home is now school property because of connectivity through video conferencing is absurd… It is ludicrous for this All-American kid to be punished for taking responsible actions just as it is for his parents to be accused of neglect,” Landry added.
According to the New Orleans Advocate, the fourth-grader was taking an English test in his bedroom on September 11 when one of his siblings, who shares his room, came into the room and tripped over a BB gun.
Family attorney Chelsea Cusimano said that the boy had muted the volume on his computer so he could concentrate and had also muted himself since students were required to do so when not speaking.When his younger brother tripped over the toy that Ka’Mauri had received as a gift, the 9-year-old leaned away from the test to grab the unloaded weapon, during which he was out of sight from the screen for a moment.
He then placed the BB gun next to him in his chair, away from his brother but in view of the computer camera which showed the scene to his teacher and peers.
“Harrison left his seat [at home] momentarily, out of view of the teacher,” a school behavior report says.
“When the student returned, he had what appeared to be a full-sized rifle in his possession.” This was when Ka’Mauri reportedly noticed that his teacher was trying to get his attention in the virtual classroom.
Based on the school documents, just as the teacher called the boy’s name, “the student was disconnected from the screen due to internet issues.” The school then tried to reach the parents but their attempt is unsuccessful, the school then called Ka’Mauri’s grandfather—his emergency contact—and informed him that the child had a gun during a virtual class.
By the end of the day, Ka’Mauri’s parents, Nyron Harrison and Thelma Williams learned that their son had been immediately suspended and faced possible expulsion.
“They are treating it as if he brought a weapon to school,” said Nyron. “They told me he would be facing expulsion.” He revealed that he’d informed school officials that the incriminating item was a BB gun and not an actual rifle. However, according to the behavior report filled out by school staff, it was still a violation of school policy.
“Ka’Mauri presented a weapon that appeared to be a rifle/shotgun during his Google Meets classroom session.This is a violation of weapons in the classroom setting and a violation of the internet usage policy. He will be recommended for expulsion as per JPPSS policy,” the behavior report said.
At a subsequent expulsion hearing held September 22, the hearing officer suspended the child for six days for “displaying a facsimile weapon while receiving virtual instruction.”
Attorney Cusimano, who participated in the hearing, said that a hearing officer confirmed it was a BB gun.
She said that Jefferson Parish Schools “took an on-campus weapons policy and unilaterally determined that they were going to apply it to one of their students in a manner as if he was on campus and not consider any measures such as the privacy of his own home.”
On Thursday, September 24, Ka’Mauri returned to virtual school after being out of class since the day of the incident. His family is currently considering taking him out of the Jefferson Parish School System, according to a GoFundMe campaign that has been set up to cover this move and pay for the child’s legal defense.