Early in September, Ka Mauri Harrison, a nine-year-old boy in Harvey, Louisiana, received a six-day suspension for simply having a BB gun during a virtual classroom session.
Robby Soave of Reason detailed the incident that triggered this suspension:
Earlier this month, he was taking a social studies test—during a virtual classroom session—when one of his younger siblings entered the room and knocked over an unloaded toy BB gun. Harrison picked up the fake weapon, which made it briefly visible on screen.
Harrison was originally threatened with expulsion from Jefferson Pariah Schools for having the BB gun in class. Soave is correct in observing that the school is treating Harrison’s home like if it was “an extension of the school.” The Washington Post reported that the expulsion ended up being reduced to a six-day suspension .
“This is an injustice. It’s a systemic failure,” Chelsea Cusimano, the family’s attorney, said in a statement. “They’re applying on-campus rules to these children, even though they’re learning virtually in their own homes.”
A similar instance of a student getting harshly punished for having a toy gun took place in Colorado, when a student, Isaiah Elliott, was suspended after being caught with a toy gun during his Zoom class.
Soave also highlighted some of the many difficulties inherent to running a virtual classroom:
Note also the difficulty that Harrison’s teacher had when she wanted to talk to him about the toy gun. She waved at him to get his attention, but he had the computer on mute because he was taking a test. By the time he could unmute, the video feed cut out. These are the struggles and impracticalities that thousands of children all over the country are dealing with—even in districts where the COVID-19 infection rates are low and in-person instruction could probably resume safely.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has begun to look at Harrison’s case and the issue of “blatant government overreach by the school system.”
“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,” Landry announced.
The transition towards virtual classes will be rough. However, teachers and school districts must be able to adapt to these changing circumstances and create reasonable policies, so students don’t feel like they’re constantly under the microscope.
If teachers don’t adjust accordingly, parents will rightfully turn towards other educational alternatives such as homeschooling in order to better satisfy their children’s learning experience.