Jefferson Parish School Board members, superintendent pen letter to legislators opposing Ka’Mauri Harrison Act

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JEFFERSON PARISH, La. —Leaders with the Jefferson Parish School System sent a letter to Louisiana legislators Friday opposing a recent bill that stemmed from a WDSU investigation.

The bill would force school districts to write policies specifically for online learning.

It follows a WDSU investigation into Jefferson Parish fourth grader Ka’Mauri Harrison, who was suspended for moving a BB gun in his bedroom during an online class.

The bill would also give families more options to appeal disciplinary decisions, even involving district courts.

Ka’Mauri Harrison’s bill won unanimous approval from the House of Representatives. Seventy lawmakers have added their names to the growing list of the bill’s authors.

The letter sent from three of the school board’s nine members and the superintendent asked legislators to consider the impact the bill would have on teachers during unprecedented times.

The letter read:

“Dear Louisiana Legislators,

“These are unprecedented times in education, and we appreciate your efforts to support teachers, administrators, and School Boards in fulfilling our mission to educate the children of Louisiana. However, the Jefferson Parish School Board is extremely concerned that legislation aimed at rectifying perceived wrongs in specific cases arising out of a narrow set of facts is advancing through the legislature and will have serious and wide-reaching consequences for Louisiana school districts.

“Jefferson Parish Schools is prohibited by La. R.S. 17:3914 and FERPA from discussing confidential student information without parental consent. Regarding the incident that occurred recently in our district and gave rise to proposed HB83, the district has not been given consent to discuss the facts of the case. This prevents the district from defending its actions, while at the same time, promoting a one-sided narrative.

“We urge legislators to consider the broader implications of HB83 for teachers, administrators, and School Boards statewide:

  • Districts have student discipline policies and procedures that are aligned with state law. These regulations apply to student conduct on campus and during any other student sponsored activity, including the virtual classroom. HB83 casts doubt on the policies and procedures that are the foundation of school systems.
  • HB83 will make it more difficult for teachers to maintain order in the classroom when they are already facing unprecedented challenges. Educators are working diligently to teach students in-person and virtually, and they must be able to expect appropriate behavior from all students to allow for a positive and orderly teaching and learning environment. Additionally, for every discipline issue that a teacher addresses, there are other students exposed to those actions. Those students and the parents of those students have every right to be in a safe, positive, and orderly learning environment.
  • The legislature can create different rules or policies for virtual learning going forward, but it is fundamentally unfair to punish teachers, administrators, and School Boards for following the rules that were in place at the time.
  • Under HB83, School Boards statewide will be overwhelmed with suspension appeals. This is not a rational or reasonable use of School Board resources.
  • HB83 will result in increased litigation and will force School Boards to direct their limited financial resources to the defense of frivolous lawsuits, rather than directing those dollars to where they should go, students and teachers in the classrooms.

“We urge legislators to reject HB83 because it will impede the success of schools and systems across the great state of Louisiana.

“Respectfully,

Tiffany Kuhn, President and School Board Member, Jefferson Parish School Board

Chad Nugent, Vice President and School Board Member, Jefferson Parish School Board

Larry Dale, School Board Member, Jefferson Parish School Board

Dr. James Gray, Superintendent, Jefferson Parish Schools.”

The bill will be heard by the Senate Education Committee next week.

School Board members whose names do not appear on the letter to legislators include: Mark Morgan, Ricky Johnson, Clay Moise, Simeon Dickerson, Billy North, Sandy Denapolis-Bosarge.

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