Louisiana district suspends more students for online weapons

Louisiana district suspends more students for online weapons

Sunday, October 25, 2020

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HARVEY, Louisiana (AP) — A Louisiana school district that faced a backlash for suspending a student after a teacher saw a BB gun in his room during a virtual class has suspended at least three other students for weapons spotted during online learning.

In the two newest cases in Jefferson Parish, a ninth grader at Thomas Jefferson High School for Advanced Studies in Gretna was seen picking up two butterfly knives and “flipping and twirling” them in his hands during a September 21 lesson, The Times Picayune-New Orleans Advocate reported, citing school documents. And a seventh grader at Patrick F Taylor Science and Technology Academy in Westwego was seen handling a katana, a type of sword.

The students didn't want to be named, but both are minorities who qualify for special education, their attorney, Victor Jones, told the newspaper. They are challenging their suspensions.

Jones said the seventh grader has practiced with the katana as a hobby and had drawn a picture of it that, along with the sword, he showed to others in his class October 12.

Both suspensions violate the students' right to due process, especially provisions in the law that protect special education students from discrimination, Jones said.

The district — the state's largest — has also suspended an additional student for having a BB gun, bringing the total number of students it has suspended for weapons spotted during virtual lessons to at least four, The Times Picayune-New Orleans Advocate reported.

The newspaper said a Jefferson Parish school system spokesperson declined to comment on specific discipline cases, citing state law and system policy.

Ka'Mauri Harrison, 9, was suspended in September for six days for violating a school policy banning weapons on school property and at school events after a teacher saw a BB gun in his room as he took a test via computer.

Ka'Mauri, who is Black, was taking a test during an online class September 11 when his brother walked into the room they share and tripped over a BB gun on the floor, according to a school behaviour report. It 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 American Civil Liberties Union and National Rifle Association spoke out in defence of the boy, and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has said he's looking into the possibility that the child's constitutional rights were violated. Ka'Mauri's family is suing the school district.

The state Legislature also got involved, passing a bill that would require school districts to develop better discipline policies for online learning.

The rules that led to the suspensions were aimed at keeping guns and weapons off school campuses and away from school sponsored activities, The Times Picayune-New Orleans Advocate said. In documents obtained by the newspaper, Jefferson Parish school officials have said those rules also apply to students attending virtual lessons while at home.


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