The Jefferson Parish School Board will vote Wednesday on a proposal to challenge the Ka’Mauri Harrison Act, the law the Legislature adopted this fall that requires new discipline policies specifically for virtual classes.
Two days later, Harrison, the Harvey fourth-grader for whom the new law was named, will have an appeal hearing before the School Board — a right granted to him by the very law the board might opt to challenge.
Nonetheless, new rules are approved in 9-0 vote
The juxtaposition highlights the uncomfortable position the school board finds itself in. It is forced to adhere to the requirements of the law its members may consider unconstitutional. But the scheduling of a hearing shows that the board and the Jefferson Parish public school district, perhaps grudgingly, plans to follow the recently-passed law which applies even to cases that originated before law was passed.
“(School Board Attorney) Mike Fanning advised us that we should hold the hearing in accordance with the new state law,” School Board President Tiffany Kuhn said during a brief interview Monday.
The school district suspended Harrison, a 9-year-old at Woodmere Elementary, in September after a teacher saw him handle what later turned out to be a BB gun during a virtual class as he took a test over the computer.
Chelsea Cusimano, the attorney who represents Harrison’s family in their school appeals as well as a lawsuit they have filed against the school system, said she had been told the hearing would be Friday morning at 9 a.m. She welcomed the opportunity to present Ka’Mauri’s case to the board. And she signaled she plans to go into the hearing ready to put on a full case.
“Considering we first requested an appeal on Sept. 23 in no less than 10 emails or letters, we will likely have to present a witness and evidence list as long as the amount of time it took JPS to grant this innocent child an appeal,” she said.
A school system spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s unclear if the hearing will be open to the public. Expulsion appeal hearings are usually held behind closed doors.
Friday’s hearing, will give the board its first opportunity to hear the competing versions of what happened during the September class. According to the teacher’s account in documents obtained by The Times Picayune | New Orleans Advocate, Harrison disappeared from the screen for a moment during an online lesson, then reappeared while holding “what appeared to be a full-sized rifle” before setting it down next to his chair with the barrel still visible.
According to the account, the teacher tried to get Harrison’s attention, but failed because Harrison had muted the speakers while he took an online test. The teacher reported the incident to the principal, who after an investigation recommended that Harrison be expelled for possessing a weapon during a school-sponsored event.
Harrison and his father, Nyron Harrison, have maintained that Ka’Mauri sought to move a BB gun so his younger brother, with whom he shares the room, wouldn’t trip over it. They have said that he did not brandish it or do anything other than move it out of the way.
A school hearing officer declined to expel Harrison, but handed down a six-day suspension, which he has served. The family has sued the school district seeking to have the punishment overturned on the grounds that the decision violated Harrison’s due process and privacy rights. A range of groups and people, including Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, the National Rifle Association and the ACLU, have all criticized the school district over the suspension.
The Jefferson Parish School Board delayed a vote Wednesday on a possible legal challenge to the Ka’Mauri Harrison Act after a typo in the agen…
The Legislature, meanwhile, unanimously adopted the new law, which Gov. John Bel Edwards signed in early November.
The School Board was originally scheduled to vote on a possible challenge of new law during a Nov. 18 special meeting, but an error on the agenda led the board to delay that until Wednesday.