The pandemic has made K-12 and higher education unlike anything we could’ve imagined before the coronavirus started forcing us to do things differently. Before the pandemic, some school and university officials had instituted online and hybrid learning, and others were experimenting with the new model as they considered how best to provide quality education in a virtual environment. Suddenly, though, everyone is doing it.
This has forced adoption of the new model has caused education leaders and administrators to review existing policies, rewriting some and applying existing policies in new environments.
Unfortunately, Ka’Mauri Harrison, a 9-year-old Woodmere School fourth grader, was taking a test during a virtual class Sept. 11 when his teacher saw the barrel of a BB rifle. Because he was concentrating on taking the test, the volume was on mute and he didn’t hear the teacher making an effort to get his attention to inquire about the gun. For one reason or another, there were “internet issues” that resulted in Ka’Mauri being disconnected as the teacher brought the situation to the attention of school officials.
A short time later it was determined that Ka’Mauri was in the wrong, mainly because “Jefferson Parish Public School Policy and Procedures 2019-21 – Possession of a Starter Gun, Stun Gun and/or Facsimile” prohibits displaying such a weapon during virtual instruction. According to the policy, kindergarten-sixth grade students may be expelled “unless other corrective or disciplinary action is recommended…”
The disciplinary hearing officer decided that Ka’Mauri should be suspended on school days from Sept. 16-23, resuming class on Sept. 24. The decision was “fair and proper” according to Woodmere Principal Cecily White.
The school investigation and district hearing don’t seem to have taken into account that Ka’Mauri meant no harm, the weapon was a BB gun and he was moving it because his brother tripped. At this point, the suspension has been served and it is on his school record.
The case has gotten a lot of local, state and national attention. CBS, CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today and media abroad have published stories about Ka’Mauri’s case.
Though the matter has been officially resolved, it’s clear that this was a young boy doing his best to be a mature, responsible student. The suspension time cannot be given back. But Ka’Mauri’s record can be cleared by removing the suspension so it doesn’t become a hindrance to his academic progress at Woodmere, in the Jefferson Parish Schools district or elsewhere in years to come.
The district superintendent and school officials should show Ka’Mauri what responsible leadership looks like by withdrawing his suspension and wiping his school slate clean.