The Jefferson Parish School Board meets during a July board meeting. (JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)
The Jefferson Parish School Board reached a financial settlement with the families of two boys who were suspended for displaying BB guns during virtual classroom instruction and suspended by school officials who accused them of possessing a weapon on school property.
The board’s decision to suspend the boys led to local and national outrage from people across the political spectrum who disputed the school system’s claim that a virtual student’s bedroom amounts to school property and who blasted the system’s leaders for overreacting and refusing to acknowledge any overreaction.
Ka’Mauri Harrison’s parents and Tomie Brown’s parents sued the school board and found support from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and the ACLU. Wednesday, in a 7-2 vote, the School Board approved settlements with the families. Ka’Mauri was a 4th grader at Woodmere Elementary School in Harvey, and Tomie was a 6th grader at Grand Isle Middle School.
Ka’Mauri’s family settled for $92,500 and “modifications in this student’s record to state the suspension was for a disruptive conduct without reference to a weapon, along with other mutually agreed terms.” Tomie’s family settled for $72,500 and will also have his record changed to “state the suspension was for a disruptive conduct without reference to a weapon, along with other mutually agreed terms.”
Neither of the boys nor their families were present at the board meeting.
In Ka’Mauri’s case, his little brother tripped over a BB gun while Ka’Mauri was taking a test online, and Ka’Mauri picked up the gun and inadvertently moved it into view of his virtual classroom. Tomie was suspended after his classmates pointed out that Brown had a gun on his screen. Tomie “admitted he had done this and realized he had made a mistake. In my opinion, he was not making a threat or threatening anyone. He just wanted to show the BB gun off to his peers,” his teacher wrote in a report.
Harrison’s story inspired Rep. Troy Romero (R-Jennings) to introduce the “Ka’Mauri Harrison Act,” which explicitly gives students a right to appeal some school disciplinary decisions, to the Louisiana State Legislature. The legislation had unanimous support in both chambers, yet the school board refused to wipe Harrison’s slate clean.
The board agreed on both settlements by a 7-2 vote. Board President Chad Nugent and board member Larry Dale were the only board members to vote against both settlements.
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