The parents of 9-year old Ka’Mauri Harrison have filed a lawsuit against the Jefferson Parish, Louisiana school district that suspended the child after he accidentally and briefly displayed a BB gun during an online class session last month. Harrison was attending the virtual class while in his bedroom, and when his little brother tripped over the unloaded BB gun that was laying on the bedroom floor, Harrison picked it up and set it aside, propping it up against the side of his desk.
Harrison’s teacher briefly caught sight of the BB gun and alerted higher ups in the school district, which responded by suspending Harrison for six days and threatening him with expulsion. Since news of the child’s suspension broke, Harrison has seen a number of high profile supporters, including Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who spoke about the case on Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co last week. At the time Landry said his office would support the Harrison family if they pursued civil litigation, and now the family has done exactly that.
The lawsuit filed Friday against the Jefferson Parish School Board and officials on behalf of the family of Ka’Mauri Harrison seeks damages of at least $50,000 for “mental pain, suffering, anguish and embarrassment, humiliation and loss of self-esteem, future counseling and tutoring and lost income,” the lawsuit said…
Family attorney Chelsea Cusimano said earlier that school officials went too far — applying its on-campus weapons policy without considering the privacy of the child and his family.
During Ka’Mauri’s school district hearing on the matter, his father Nyron Harrison said, “it is very important to the family that this be dismissed, that it does not follow him in his educational career … the school did not follow his due process rights,” according to the lawsuit.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced last month his office was looking into the handling of the incident in connection with the investigation, they have become aware that “several other students are experiencing the same treatment by this and other school systems,” and believes that the student’s constitutional rights allow for an appeal, according to a letter his office sent to the school system on September 29.
Landry also told Bearing Arms that several lawmakers have taken an interest in Harrison’s case, and he expects legislation to be filed during the current special session underway in Baton Rouge that would address the issue. Landry didn’t provide specifics of the legislation, but hinted that the bills would be aimed at stopping school districts across the state from punishing students for similar inadvertent displays of toy guns, as well political signs, religious imagery, or other forms of protected speech.
Attempting to apply a school district’s weapons policy to students who are attending class in their homes is a ridiculous idea to begin with, but in Harrison’s case it’s particularly egregious since virtually everyone acknowledges that there was no ill intent on the part of the 9-year old. Rather than apologize for the suspension, however, the school district has so far refused to back down, repeatedly issuing a boilerplate statement in response to press inquiries that maintains the district’s response was “reasonable.”
Jefferson Parish Schools told CNN, “We do not comment on individual student records. Regarding discipline, it is our policy that teachers and administrators may employ reasonable disciplinary and corrective measures to maintain order,” the same statement provided last month.
There was no disorder in the online class because of Ka’Mauri Harrison’s brief handling of the BB gun, but the decision to suspend the 4th grader has caused plenty of disorder in the school district since the disciplinary action became a national news story. It looks like a simple apology to the Harrison family will no longer suffice, but we’ll see if the Jefferson Parish schools try to settle with the family rather than letting the civil suit proceed to a trial.