Officials in the Jefferson Parish, Louisiana public school system have upheld a 6-day suspension for a 9-year old boy who was suspended from his elementary school after he momentarily handled a BB gun in his bedroom during an online class session, in the latest incident involving students, virtual classrooms, and airsoft or BB guns in private homes.
According to Nola.com, the student had no nefarious intention in handling the BB gun, but that didn’t matter to school officials, who threatened the child with expulsion over the incident.
Ka Mauri Harrison, a fourth grader at Woodmere Elementary in Harvey, was taking a virtual class in his bedroom when his younger brother came into the room and tripped over a BB gun. The 9-year-old leaned away from his English test, grabbed the unloaded weapon and put it next to his chair, away from his brother but in view of the computer camera that showed the scene to his teacher and classmates.
By the end of the day, he was facing suspension from school — and possible expulsion.
This isn’t the first incident like this that we’ve seen since many schools have moved to an all-online teaching model in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and honestly, every single one of these stories is utterly enraging. In this case, Ka Mauri Harrison was simply picking up the BB gun from the floor of his bedroom so his younger brother wouldn’t trip over it. Any teacher or superintendent with a lick of common sense would realize that there’s no benefit or purpose in suspending Harrison, but instead the district is standing by its decision. The only bright spot here is the fact that the school called the parents instead of calling police, which wasn’t the case in several other incidents in Colorado and Maryland this year.
“They are treating it as if he brought a weapon to school,” Nyron Harrison said. “They told me he would be facing expulsion.”
Nyron Harrison said he told school officials that it was a BB gun, not an actual rifle. He said he bought the gun for Ka Mauri and had taught the boy to use it properly and safely. The gun was not loaded, and Ka Mauri just moved it to get it out of the way, he said.
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 report says.
During a subsequent expulsion hearing, the hearing officer did not expel Ka Mauri but suspended him for six days for “displaying a facsimile weapon while receiving virtual instruction,” according to a copy of the decision.
Ka Mauri Harrison didn’t bring a gun to school. He had a BB gun in his bedroom. The school district apparently can’t see the difference and understand why one might be a threat and the other a simple childhood activity.
Harrison is scheduled to return to his online classes today, but his parents have also hired an attorney and are weighing their legal options. Personally, I hope they do pursue litigation. What happened to Ka Mauri Harrison is an outrage, and there’s simply no reason why he should have been suspended from school and threatened with expulsion for picking a BB gun up off the floor of his bedroom and putting it aside so his younger brother didn’t trip over it again. I don’t know how much Harrison has been able to learn from his online classes, but he’s getting a real education into the insane policies and privacy violations that many school districts have adopted in the age of COVID-19.