A Black fourth grader was suspended for having a BB gun visible in his online class

By Allana Akhtar

A Louisiana school suspended and nearly expelled a fourth-grader for unintentionally showing a BB gun during his virtual class. 

Ka Mauri Harrison, a 9-year-old in Harvey, Louisiana, moved a BB gun that his younger brother tripped on during an English test, Nola.com reported. The teacher attempted to speak to him, but because he muted the computer for the test, he was disconnected from the class. The school then called his parents notifying them of his suspension.

The school suspended Harrison for violating their policy for handling weapons in the classroom setting and the school's internet usage policy, according to the report. Expulsion had been recommended, but the school's hearing officer later opted not to expel Harrison.

Business Insider reached out to the school and the Harrison family for further comment.

The fourth grader's suspension is one of several instances of Black children being disciplined during the disorganized shift to online school, further perpetuating racial bias in education. In May, a Michigan judge incarcerated a 15-year-old Black girl for not completing her homework, leading to protests and petitions demanding her release. A Colorado school suspended and sent the sheriff to a 12-year-old Black boy's home for showing his toy gun in class

Black students are disproportionately suspended or expelled, one of the ways that make up the "school-to-prison" pipeline. In Minneapolis, Black students made up 41% of the overall student population, but 76% of suspensions. In Paramus, New Jersey, Black students were 12.4 times more likely to get suspended than white students between 2015 to 2016.

Specifically, Black boys represented 8% of all enrolled students in 2015-2016 but accounted for a whopping 25% of all school suspensions, the US Education Department found.

Educators told The New York Time's Aaricka Washington that the rules set up to maintain order during "Zoom schooling" could lead to unnecessary discipline. But overseeing their children during the virtual school — an already tedious task for working parents — could particularly disadvantage Black and Latino families that faced higher job loss and illness during the pandemic. 

"All the situations that we know make people vulnerable to bias exist in this situation," Miranda Johnson, a law professor at Loyola University Chicago who studies school discipline, told Chalkbeat. "High stress situations, people are at their limits both professionally and personally, lots of discretion in these decisions because there's not clear guidance, and everyone is sort of making things up as they go."