Here’s why the Jefferson School Board plans to challenge the new Ka’Mauri Harrison law in court | Education

The Jefferson Parish School Board authorized its attorneys Wednesday night to challenge a new law arising from the suspension of a Harvey fourth grader who handled a BB gun on camera during a virtual lesson.

The law, named for Ka’Mauri Harrison, a Woodmere Elementary student who served a six-day suspension in September, sailed through the Louisiana Legislature this year without a nay vote. It requires school systems to write new policies for virtual classes and lets students appeal to the school board if an administrative hearing officer reduces an expulsion recommendation to suspension.

Fourth grader was suspended for having BB gun in his room during virtual class

Crucially, that last part would apply retroactively, and school system attorney Patricia Adams said the law is not clear on how far back the retroactivity applies.

“It raises the possibility that somebody from two years or five years or 20 years ago could come back and say they want a hearing,” Adams told the School Board. The argument that the retroactivity applied only to the start of the current coronavirus pandemic is not clear in the law, she said. “I think somebody could make the point that it’s not limited to that point,” Adams said.

Adams added that the school system is willing to comply with other provisions of the law, and has already produced a virtual education policy.

Furor erupted after 9-year old suspended for moving BB gun while taking online test 

The board, voting 7-2, gave its attorneys the go-ahead to challenge the law in court “should they deem it necessary.” Adams said no determination on whether it would be necessary has been made. Board members Billy North and Tiffany Kuhn voted in the minority.

At least one Jefferson Parish legislator has urged the board not to challenge the law, saying it had been looked over by attorneys in both the House and Senate before it passed. “I wanted to respectfully ask you to not move forward on the idea of taking this to court,” Sen. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, said. The Legislature “had a lot of attorneys look at this bill.”

Adams also said the law lets plaintiffs recoup attorneys fees if they win an appeal, and that it thus creates a financial incentive for people to sue the school system.

The Jefferson Parish School Board will vote Wednesday on a proposal to challenge the Ka’Mauri Harrison Act, the law the Legislature adopted th…

Ka’Mauri and Grand Isle School sixth grader Tomie Brown were both originally recommended for expulsion for possessing a weapon “on school property” or at a school sponsored event — virtual class — but a hearing officer reduced Ka’Mauri’s punishments to a six-day suspension and Tomie’s to a three-day suspension. Under old law, because they were suspended and not expelled, they did not have the right to appeal to the School Board. 

Even as the attorneys contemplate the challenge, the School Board has moved to comply with the provision Adams singled out and will hold hearings for Harrison and Brown on Friday.

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