The news of a boy suspended for the BB gun incident has sent shockwaves across America, with each American having a strong opinion about it. Is the suspension right? Let's hear what the lawyers are saying below.
Boy Suspended For BB Gun Incident May Spark Movement for Change
As much of the country transitioned to online learning in March, questions immediately began to arise about school policies being enforced when students attended Zoom meetings from the comfort of their homes.
Many school districts attempted to treat students’ homes as an extension of school property, subject to the same rules and disciplinary actions.
But for students from Maryland to Colorado to Louisiana, this approach has led to arrests, suspensions, threatened expulsions, and unconstitutional home searches after BB guns and other toy guns were seen by over-reaching teachers on their computer screens.
Who is Attorney Chelsea Cusimano?
Now, one lawyer in Louisiana is helping to draft legislation and enact real change that prevents children from being unfairly criminalized for toys kept in their private residences.
Attorney Chelsea Cusimano represents both 9-year old Ka’Mauri Harrison and 11-year old Rondell Coleman, who faces criminal charges after being seen with a BB gun by his teacher via Zoom.
Ka’Mauri, from Harvey, LA, was suspended from his school after his teacher watched him pick up a BB gun from the floor of his bedroom so that his younger brother would not trip over it.
The BB gun was unloaded, and he leaned it against his desk.
What's Going On Now?
The East Baton Rouge Parish School System reported Rondell to the Sheriff’s Department on Sept. 18 when a gun was seen in his bedroom during a virtual class.
The incident report said Rondell “was brandishing a gun on camera.”
Rondell was then sent to an alternative school, which is a last resort school for students with significant discipline problems and repeat violations.
In response to these offensive and invasive actions taken by school districts, the House Education Committee in the Louisiana legislature unanimously approved the “Ka’Mauri Harrison Act” on Wednesday.
The bill would force school districts to write policies specifically for online learning.
The bill would also give families more options to appeal disciplinary decisions, even involving district courts.
It's currently waiting to be signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Cusimano has been instrumental in assisting the families of Ka’Mauri and Rondell.
Rondell’s grandmother, Evette Coleman, reached out to Cusimano for help.
The Ka'Mauri Harrison Act
Cusimano was already working with the Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry's office to get weapons violations wiped from the permanent school records of Harrison, and a second Jefferson Parish student, Tomie Brown.
Together with state lawmakers, they were already working on legislation that would become The Ka'Mauri Harrison Act.
For Rondell, Cusimano contacted Solicitor General Liz Murrill.
Murrill reached out to the East Baton Rouge school district on behalf of Rondell and had his charges dropped.
Murrill has said that her office will advocate for the students and families affected until their school records are wiped clean.
“We just saw this to be a very significant government overreach, and I think everyone in the country is sympathetic to that and that first story really triggered that firestorm,” said Murrill.
Getting Social Services Involved
In addition to the lawsuit that the Harrison family has filed against the Jefferson Parish school district on behalf of Ka’Mauri, Cusimano recently won a temporary injunction blocking the school system from conducting a social services assessment on the Harrison family.
The school district is attempting to send a social worker to Ka’Mauri’s home because he has a BB gun in his house.
The Harrison family has expressed suspicion that the school system is trying to retaliate against them for going public with their son’s case.
For now, the school district has been thwarted by Cusimano’s efforts, although another hearing, in that case, is scheduled for early November.
The School's Defense
At the Senate Education Committee Hearing on The Ka'Mauri Harrison Act, attorneys for the Jefferson Parish School System defended its actions and opposed the bill.
They said a person's home is considered part of the school campus when a student is learning online.
Cusimano says in the wake of the national attention that Harrison’s case has received, she’s heard from many other parents, including others in Jefferson Parish, but also from states as far away as New Jersey, with similar stories of their own.
The attorney suggests that parents be proactive in reaching out to their own local school districts to share Ka’Mauri’s story.
Parents can also urge the superintendent and school board to adopt specific policies for online learning that recognize that a private home is still a private home.
What is your take on this story? Do you agree or disagree with the sanctions? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section!