Recent weeks have seen several young students facing harsh consequences for possessing BB guns during virtual classes. One of these was Ka’Mauri Harrison, whose school suspended him earlier this month for having a BB gun in a virtual classroom. Now, Harrison’s family has joined lawmakers and others whose children faced similar incidents to change the rules and clear their kids’ records.
An Unexpected Problem
Eleven-year-old Rondell Coleman likely didn’t expect a visit from police when he logged into class on September 18. However, that’s exactly what happened after a BB gun was spotted in his room during a lesson.
An incident report obtained by WDSU news indicated that authorities were told Rondell “was brandishing a gun on camera.” A deputy who visited the house subsequently confiscated a BB gun.
“This is a BB gun,” said Rondell’s grandmother, Evette Coleman, who also said the deputy interrogated the boy as well as her daughter-in-law. “You’re going to come and read a kid rights because he has a BB gun?”
Following the incident, the East Baton Rouge (EBR) Parish School System recommended Rondell for suspension and transferred him to an alternative campus for students with significant discipline issues.
Changing the Rules
Evette, meanwhile, contacted attorney Chelsea Cusimano to advocate for her grandson. The grandmother had seen Cusimano in the news for defending students in similar situations, including Ka’Mauri Harrison. Working with Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office, Cusimano authored the Ka’Mauri Harrison Act to protect students in virtual classrooms. The act would require schools to create clear virtual school policies by December 31 of this year.
The Attorney General’s office took immediate action when Rondell’s case came to them, said Solicitor General Elizabeth “Liz” Murill.
“We just saw this to be very significant government overreach, and I think everyone in the country is sympathetic to that and that first story really triggered that firestorm,” she said.
Murill called the EBR School Board on Rondell’s behalf, after which they dropped all charges and violations against him. However, the boy reportedly spent more than two weeks at the alternative campus following the decision.
“I was very disturbed when I found that the child was cooling his heels in alternative school, and I was worried for the child, but they did react very quickly when they found out… something had fallen through the cracks,” said Murill. “I give them credit for reacting and for acting and acknowledging that they had not updated their policies and done the right thing.”
The solicitor general also reported that Jefferson Parish Public Schools have yet to reverse their judgments against Harrison. A hearing regarding a restraining order against the school system will be held on November 4.
The Ka’Mauri Harrison Act currently awaits the signature of Lousiana Governor John Bel Edwards.