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Bill allowing school discipline appeals passes committee, legislative approval next

The bill is named after 9-year-old Ka’Mauri Harrison, who was suspended and recommended for expulsion after a BB gun was seen in his room during online classes.

JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — Ka’Mauri Harrison, 9, went before state lawmakers Monday afternoon, pleading his case to the Senate Education Committee.

“I thank you for helping kids my age and kids like me facing this problem,” said Harrison as he sat in front of committee members.

“How incredible is it that we’ve reached the point where a child has to come up here and say please do something, this is just wrong,” said committee member Senator Beth Mizell

Ka’Mauri is a fourth-grader in Jefferson Parish who was recommended for expulsion and suspended for six days last month after a BB gun was seen in his bedroom during virtual learning. That led to the school district enacting its weapons on campus policy. His father says that’s an overreach.

“I didn’t know nothing about any rules or policies. I just felt like my home was totally invaded,” said Nyron Harrison.

Ka’Mauri’s case is one of two involving the Jefferson Parish School System and a BB gun during virtual learning. Tomie Brown, a sixth-grader, was recommended for expulsion and suspended for three days last month for the same thing. His father also testified Monday.

“We were provided no guidance. I definitely did not know that they considered my son’s bedroom part of the Jefferson Parish School System,” said Timothy Brown.

Passing the committee, a piece of legislation known as the “Ka’Mauri Harrison Act” would require school districts to create virtual school policies and allow parents an appeal process for disciplinary actions. Last week the Jefferson Parish School System sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to oppose the bill, claiming it would have wide-reaching consequences for districts.

“Whatever is not acceptable in a classroom, on the school bus, at a school dance is not acceptable also in a virtual classroom. That’s our position,” said Jennifer Ansardi, legislative liaison for the Jefferson Parish School System.

Even with opposition from the school district, the bill has support from the state’s highest elected leaders, including the attorney general, whose office maintains it addresses a problem no one anticipated.

“When schools closed back in March and everybody went to a hundred percent virtual education, I don’t think anybody contemplated that all the on-campus school policies would then apply to your home,” said Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill.

The attorney representing the Jefferson Parish School System asked the committee for state guidance instead of passing legislation.

“It’s a very good idea to send this back to BESE or whoever it is that you want to make these decisions and get some written guidance for us on exactly what you want us to do,” said attorney Fred Price who represents the school district.

“You want my guidance, wipe the slate clean for both of these kids. We all made mistakes during the pandemic and move on, said Sen. Kirk Talbot, a committee member.

As it passed committee, this bill would be retroactive and only allow an appeal process for expulsions and recommended expulsions that were reduced to suspensions. It now goes to the full senate.

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