We’ve been talking for weeks now about the case of Ka’Mauri Harrison, the 4th grader in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, who was suspended from school after he accidentally displayed a BB gun during an online class while picking it up off the floor of his bedroom and setting it aside so his younger brother wouldn’t trip over it.
Despite the involvement of the state legislature and Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office, the Jefferson Parish school board has refused to admit that it was wrong to suspend the child, and the Harrison family has brought a lawsuit against the local school district.
They’re not the only ones. The parents of 11-year-old Tomie Brown say they’re also suing the district after their son was suspended for a similar incident involving online learning. Tim Brown says a teacher never even saw a BB gun but relied solely on comments by other students to discipline his son.
“After I received a phone call asking us to come to the principal’s office the next day, I went into his bedroom with him because he didn’t mention anything had happened because it was so insignificant from his in perspective anyway,” said Brown.
It’s been an ongoing discussion of privacy during virtual learning under COVID-19. The school board downgraded Tomie’s recommended expulsion to a suspension with probation but kept the weapons charge on his record.
“My son did nothing wrong ya know. If my son had done something wrong the school system would’ve been second in line to punish him, but he did not do anything wrong,” said Brown.
Both Ka’Mauri Harrison and Tomie Brown were in their bedrooms attending class virtually when their BB guns were allegedly spotted. Neither student is accused of threatening anyone or even being a distraction during the online class. Why then is the school district so intent on punishing these kids?
Attorney for both parties, Chelsea Cusimano says Tomie shouldn’t be punished for the nationwide attention from another student’s case, asserting privacy violations, conspiracy, emotional distress, and racial bias among several claims in the lawsuit.
“I can’t, and I know Mr. Brown can’t, and I know the Harrison family can’t pinpoint a difference between these two children other than race and media retaliation… they just cannot except accountability for the bad behavior of their administration,” said Cusimano.
Brown says his family never wanted to sue the school district, but says he has to protect his son.
“This whole thing getting this off my sons record is the number one goal in this,” said Brown.
I’m not sure what’s going on there in Jefferson Parish, but the school board members need to get over themselves and wipe these suspensions clean. Of course, now that there’s ongoing litigation, that’s not likely to happen.
The school district has chosen to defy common sense from the day that Harrison and Brown (and potentially other students as well) were threatened with expulsion over these non-incidents. This never should have become a story, but now that it is, the district is digging in its heels over its asinine policies.
A lawsuit is a good first step, but I hope that every one of these school board members who voted to keep these suspensions in place faces a challenge the next time they’re up for election. It’s clear that some big changes are needed on the board, and the sooner, the better.