Louisiana House passes education bills related to funding, virtual discipline and medical marijuana

    An empty classroom in McNeese State University.

    The Louisiana House passed several bills affecting students across the state, including school funding, student discipline during virtual learning and broadband connectivity. Here are some highlights:

    The Ku’Mauri Harrison Bill passes unanimously

    During virtual class, 9-year-old Ku’Mauri Harrison’s little brother tripped over a BB gun, so Kamauri moved it out of his brother’s way but to a place where it became visible on the screen of his virtual class.  Because he displayed “a facsimile weapon while receiving virtual instruction,” he was initially recommended for expulsion but was eventually given a six-day suspension from school

    This led Ku’Mauri and his father, Nyron,  to turn to the Louisiana legislature for answers. 

    Last week, the Harrisons testified — through tears  — in front of the House Education Committee. Rep. Rich Edmonds, R-East Baton Rouge, said he and every other legislator in committee was moved by Ku’Mauri Harrison’s father’s emotional testimony. 

     “I knew the seriousness of a Black child having a firearm, exposing a firearm to a classroom session,” the father said. “Ku’Mauri was pleading with me to hear his side of the story… His teacher basically told me the same story that he told me.”

    This bill  would require school districts to write policies specifically for online learning and to give families more options to appeal disciplinary decisions. The bill would be retroactive to March 13, the day in the 2020 school year that Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a proclamation that ended in-person instruction that semester.

    “I ask you to join me… as we do the right thing for a 4th grade student,” Edmonds said on the House floor. “And can feel good that we as Louisiana legislators got it right.”

    If the Ku’Mauri Harrison Bill becomes a law, according to a Louisiana attorney who represents children, it will be the nation’s first law addressing school discipline in virtual environments.

    Multiple bills pass to protect students and school districts affected by Hurricane Laura

    The House passed HB40 unanimously, which would make it easier for students affected by Hurricane Laura and other natural disasters to receive TOPS money. The legislation would push back certain deadlines and GPA requirements that students affected by the hurricane would have a much more difficult or impossible time meeting.

    The House also passed SCR6, which would “request the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to adopt adjustments to the minimum foundation program (MFP) formula to ensure that school districts impacted by Hurricane Laura do not” lose MFP funding and HCR1, which requests BESE “take all necessary measures relative to the minimum foundation program formula to ensure that the Calcasieu Parish and Cameron Parish school systems are not penalized in terms of funding due to closures and student displacement resulting from Hurricane Laura.”

    Approval for bill establishing broadband task force

    The House also passed a bill that would create a task force to “connect as many Louisianans as possible and close the digital divide.” This task force would be set to provide written recommendations to the Louisiana Legislature by Feb. 1, 2021.

    Medical marijuana could be administered to students

    The House passed a bill that would allow “a primary caregiver, school nurse, or other authorized school personnel to administer medical marijuana.” The law currently allows schools to administer several kinds of prescription and nonprescription drugs to students. This bill would make that law applicable to medical marijuana.