HARVEY, La. (AP) — The president of a historically Black college has asked a Louisiana school superintendent to revoke the punishment of a fourth grader who was suspended from school because his teacher saw a BB gun in his room during a virtual lesson.
Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough urged Jefferson Parish Superintendent James Gray to reconsider the punishment of Woodmere Elementary student Ka Mauri Harrison, who was suspended for six days and almost expelled, news outlets reported.
A school behavior report said Ka Mauri, who is Black, was taking a test in his virtual class Sept. 11 when his brother walked into the room and tripped over a BB gun that was lying on the floor. The brothers share a room.
The report said Ka Mauri left his seat, out of view of the teacher, and returned with “what appeared to be a full-sized rifle in his possession.”
The teacher tried to talk to Ka Mauri, but his computer was muted and he was subsequently kicked out of the class, the report said.
Kimbrough said Ka Mauri's punishment exceeded the offense and that this type of disciplinary action may harm Ka Mauri in the future.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said he has launched an investigation into the situation, citing possible infringement of the child's constitutional rights.
“I am alarmed by what appears to not only be multiple violations of both the State and Federal Constitutions, but also blatant government overreach by the school system,” Landry said in a news release. “I have begun investigating this matter and plan to take action in defense of this young man and his family and all families who could suffer the same invasion of their homes and constitutional rights.”
“For anyone to conclude that a student’s home is now school property because of connectivity through video conferencing is absurd,” Landry. said. “It is ludicrous for this All-American kid to be punished for taking responsible actions just as it is for his parents to be accused of neglect.”
Kimbrough wrote a letter to Gray expressing his understanding of the difficulties schools are facing during the pandemic. However, he wondered whether the school system had adequate policies for situations like Ka Mauri's.
School Board member Simeon Dickerson seconded that, saying the school should have backed off once they realized it was a BB gun.
Both men urged Gray to hold another disciplinary hearing, remove the suspension from Ka Mauri's record, update the system's policies and issue a public apology.
Gray would not comment on Kimbrough's letter. A school system spokesperson said nothing has changed regarding Ka Marui's suspension. Other school board members also would not comment.
“You have this overcriminalization of Black boys,” Kimbrough said. “As the father of an 11-year-old boy, I want my son to be viewed through a lens of innocence if he makes a mistake, and not have to worry about him being suspended or expelled, or because this is America today, possibly killed.”