The family of Ka’Mauri Harrison, the Marrero fourth grader suspended after he was seen during a virtual lesson moving a BB gun in his bedroom, sued the Jefferson Parish public school system Friday.
Attorney Chelsea Cusimano filed the suit in Louisiana’s 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna, seeking damages and an order that the School Board conduct a hearing about the decisions of the administrator who disciplined Ka’Mauri and let the boy make up any work he missed during his six-day suspension.
Since news of the suspension broke in September, Ka’Mauri’s case has rallied a host of allies to his side, including state Attorney General Jeff Landry, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Rifle Association and others.
“This case arises from egregious government overreach, complete lack of common sense to prevail and correct the glaring failures of local government officials to comply with the law,” the suit says. “The result is a terrifying intrusion into a family’s home and a bureaucratic nightmare that unites the Attorney General, ACLU, and the NRA in agreement that the parents and child’s statutory and constitutional rights have been violated.”
It names the School Board, Superintendent James Gray, Woodmere Elementary Principal Cecily White, school system hearing officer Terri Joia and school system attorney Patricia Adams as defendants.
The suit centers on a Sept. 11 incident, when Ka’Mauri, 9, in his bedroom, was taking a test during a virtual lesson. His younger brother entered the room they share and tripped over a BB gun next to the desk. Ka’Mauri moved the gun from one side of his chair to the other, leaning it up against the table – the barrel within range of his computer camera.
His teacher saw him move the BB gun and tried unsuccessfully to get his attention, but he had muted his computer. Moments later, he was disconnected from the lesson. When his mother called the school, she was told that the BB gun had been reported to the principal.
Ka’Mauri was subsequently suspended and recommended for expulsion for what the school system said was a violation of its policy forbidding weapons at school or school functions. A hearing officer refused to expel him during a Sept. 22 hearing but did uphold a six-day suspension, a punishment that the boy’s parents assert is overly tough and ignores their privacy and due process rights.
The suit accuses the school system of a number of missteps, including failing to provide the family with a copy of policies for online school before the academic year started and failing to give Ka’Mauri due process rights under the law for students facing serious discipline.
A school system spokesperson would not comment Friday on the suit, citing a policy of not speaking about individual student’s records. The School Board has an item on its Wednesday meeting agenda to hire an attorney to handle any litigation out of the case.
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