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A a “Teacher of the Year” award-winning educator in Louisiana was escorted out of a meeting, handcuffed and arrested after she spoke out against a pay raise for her school district’s superintendent.
Deyshia Hargrave, a 32-year-old teacher at Rene Rost Middle School in Kaplan, Louisiana, was taken into custody at the Vermilion Parish School Board meeting Monday night, KATC-TV reports.
Hargrave addressed the school board about a $38,000 pay raise for Superintendent Jerome Puyau, questioning why he was given the raise while teachers haven’t seen a pay increase in years. She was then called upon a second time for comment after the pay raise was approved by the board and began addressing questions to the superindent, which led Fontana to have Hargrave taken out of the meeting by an Abbeville city marshal.
Hargrave was then handcuffed in the hallway outside the meeting and taken to the Abbeville City Jail, where she was booked on charges of remaining after being forbidden and resisting an officer, the news station reports. According to KATC, the school district did not want to press charges against Hargrave, and say they told police that, but the charges against Hargrave could be brought by the marshal without needing the school system’s cooperation. Hargrave has bonded out of the city jail, KATC reports.
Videos of the incident have gone viral and sparked outrage locally and nationwide. Hargrave did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Heavy and it is not clear if she has hired an attorney. The school district, superintendent, school board president and police have also not commented about the incident.
The following statement can be attributed to Debbie Meaux, the President of the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE).
Debbie Meaux, the president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said in a statement to Heavy that they were notified of the incident shortly after it occurred and their attorney, Brian Blackwell, is working with Hargrave, who is a member of the association.
“As an organization that advocates for the dedicated school employees of Louisiana, we firmly denounce the mistreatment of Ms. Hargrave, a loving parent and dedicated teacher serving the students of Vermilion Parish. It is every citizen’s right to speak up for their beliefs. Any action that infringes upon this right is unlawful and unacceptable,” Meaux said in the statement. “We will continue to support the right of every single school employee to take an interest in, and ultimately stand up for, the best interests of their schools and their students.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hargrave Told the School Board She Was Speaking on Behalf of Many Teachers Who Are ‘Scared to Speak Out’ Because of the District’s Power
Deyshia Hargrave stood up to speak out against a controversial 3-year contract extension for Vermilion Parish Superintendent Jerome Puyau during the public comment period prior to the board’s vote at Monday night’s meeting. The school board has been trying to extend Puyau’s contract for several months and has faced opposition from teachers and others in the community, according to Vermilion Today.
“I have a serious issue with a superintendent or any person in a position of leadership getting any type of raise. I feel that it’s a slap in the face to all the teachers, cafeteria workers and any other support staff. We work very hard with very little to maintain the salaries that we have,” Hargrave told the board, a video posted to YouTube by Chris Rosa shows. You can watch the full video above. “As I’ve been teaching the last few years I’ve seen class sizes grow enormously so, I don’t care if the performance targets are met, you’re making our job even more difficult and we are jumping through hoops and we’re continuously, we’re meeting those goals, we’re meeting those goals, while someone in that position of leadership is getting a raise.”
Hargrave added, “it’s a sad, sad day to be a teacher in Vermilion Parish, when we’re supposed to be 4th, 6th, whatever number we are in the state. We’re doing the work, the students are doing the work, at the top, that’s not where kids learn, it’s in the classrooms and those teachers, like myself, are not getting a dime. And that’s unspeakable.”
Hargrave also criticized the board for taking a vote with a member who was appointed, not elected. According to Vermilion Today, school board member JB Moreno was appointed in December 2017 to fill a seat vacated by the death of another board member. Board President Anthony Fontana appointed Moreno instead of the deceased member’s wife, who was nominated by other board members.
“This decision shouldn’t even be made tonight,” Hargrave told the board.
“I feel like I’m speaking on behalf of more than just myself, more than just Kaplan teachers, I’m speaking as a group,” she said. “Many teachers are scared to speak out, with Act 1 and all the power Mr. Puyau now has.”
Hargrave was referencing a package of “educator effectiveness” laws passed by Louisiana authorities in 2012 that, among other things, gave the final authority on personnel decisions to local superintendents and principals.
“Again, I’m going to use the word absurd that we are even considering giving someone a raise when these teachers are working so hard and not getting a dime,” Hargrave told the board.
After the vote was held, Hargrave again addressed the board, this time during a period for “audience concerns for the superintendent.”
Hargrave, addressing the superintendent said, “how are you going to take a raise when … when I first started teaching ELA there were like 20, 21 kids in a class and now there’s 29 kids in a class that we are now having and we have not got raises. How are you going to take that money, because it’s basically taking out of the pockets teachers.”
Fontana then interrupted Hargrave, banging his gavel and saying, “stop right now, that’s not germane to what’s on the agenda.” The crowd erupted with, “yes it is.” Fontana told Hargrave and the audience that the raise issue was not part of the discussion of the superintendent’s contract.
“How are you taking the raise when you’re basically taking from the teachers and employees under you, when we have class sizes that are that big. This directly speaks to what you’ve just voted on,” Hargrave told Fontana.
At that point, Puyau begins speaking to Hargrave, but the Abbeville city marshal working security at the meeting can be seen walking toward her, apparently after Fontana motioned for her to be removed.
2. A Video Shows the Marshal Handcuffing Hargrave as She Screams ‘What Are You Doing?’
A video recorded by KATC-TV, which you can watch above, shows what happened as Hargrave was escorted out of the meeting. The Abbeville city marshal can be seen on video telling Hargrave to leave, pointing toward the door, while someone in the audience says, “he’s addressing her,” referencing the superintendent, who at that point stopped talking.
“Take your stuff and go,” the marshal, whose name hasn’t been released, says to Hargrave. She continues to speak to the board and the marshal says to her, “You’re going to leave or I’m going to remove you.”
The marshal then grabs Hargrave by the arm and she says to him, “Sir, do not,” before picking up her purse and walking toward the door. Someone in the crowd says, “this is the most disgraceful and distasteful thing I’ve ever seen.”
The video shows Hargrave and other members of the crowd asking why the school board president won’t let the superintendent answer Hargrave’s question. It then cuts to Hargrave in the hallway, being pushed to the ground by the city marshal and put into handcuffs as she yells, “what are you doing, what are you doing!”
The marshal pulls Hargrave up to her feet and drags her, while handcuffed, down the hall as she screams, “are you kidding me?” The marshal says, “stop resisting,” and she responds, “I am not, you just pushed me to the floor. Sir, hold on, I am way smaller than you. Are you kidding me?” she says as the marshal leads her outside.
You can watch another angle of her arrest in the video posted by Chris Rosa below. Someone in the crowd can be heard saying, “she’s just put her in handcuffs,” before the chaotic scene in the hallway unfolds to the shock of the crowd:
Rosa’s video shows Hargrave being taken outside as several other members of the crowd follow. Hargrave can be seen talking to the marshal, and expressing shock that she si being arrested for “standing in a hallway.”
The marshal tells her, “I gave you many lawful orders to leave.” Hargrave tells him, “that’s exactly what I was doing,” and he says, “you did not, you did not.”
Hargrave tells him, “I was walking out of the hallway, asking you a question. … You don’t need backup, I’m 5-feet tall, put me in the car if you’re going to put me in the car.”
Another person says they are going to call someone to tell them about the arrest, and the marshal threatens to have that person arrested.
“Somebody else about to get arrested, public intimidation,” he says.
The video ends with Hargrave being put into a police SUV and taken to jail. She was booked on the charges of remaining after being forbidden and resisting an officer, KATC-TV reports.
3. A School Board Member Said the Incident Shows ‘the Way Females Are Treated in Vermilion Parish’
At the end of Monday night’s school board meeting, one of the board’s members, Laura LeBeouf, addressed the incident.
“What happened here tonight shows the way that females are treated in Vermilion Parish,” LeBeouf said, KATC reports. Someone in the crowd can then be heard saying, “terrible, terrible, terrible.”
LeBeouf added, “I have never seen a man removed from this room. I have never.”
The board votes 5-3 in favor of the contract, with LeBeuouf casting one of the votes against. The board had previously been deadlocked 4-4 in other votes and some members of the board gave him a negative assessment in 2016.
The school district told reporters Monday night they didn’t want to press charges and city prosecutor Ike Funderburk told KATC that officials called him Tuesday morning to reiterate that. But it is not clear if the charges will be dropped. They were filed based on the complaint of the marshal. It is unclear whether the school board president intended for Hargrave to be arrested, or if he just wanted her taken out of the room. Fontana has not commented.
Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor that carries a potential sentence of up to 6 months in jail, according to Louisiana state law. Remaining after being forbidden is also a misdemanor and is punishable by up to 6 months in jail. Both charges also carry potential fines of up to $500 if convicted.
She was taken to the Abbeville Police Department, but was arrested by a deputy city marshal.
“In response to the numerous requests for the teacher’s booking information, the Abbeville Police Department is cooperating as directed by law,” the department said in a statement to KLFY-TV. “The Abbeville Police Department did not arrest the teacher. Due to the location of her arrest and the arresting agency’s jurisdiction, which includes the city limits of Abbeville, she was booked in and bonded from the local police department.”
4. Hargrave, the Mother of a Young Daughter, Is an English Teacher & Works a Second Job in Online Sales
Deyshia Hargrave works at Rene Rost Middle School in Kaplan, Louisiana, as an English/Language arts teacher, according to the school’s website. She is a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, according to her Linkedin profile.
She won the “Teacher of the Year” award at the school in 2016, the New York Times reports.
“Deyshia’s very outspoken. She’s a great teacher,” school board member Laura LeBeouf told the Times. She called the arrest “a disgrace,” telling the Times, “I do believe in the First Amendment, and everyone should be able to go to a school board meeting and express how they feel.”
Hargrave is the mother of a young daughter, according to her Facebook page. Along with her teaching job, she works in online sales as a distributor for SeneGence International – LipSense, according to her Facebook page.
Just a day before making her own viral speech, Hargrave shared Oprah’s Golden Globes speech on the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Hargrave wrote on Facebook, “For the girls…. ❤️💪🏻👸🏻❤️💪🏻👸🏻”
5. Family, Friends, Fellow Educators, Politicians & Parents Have Rallied to Support Hargrave After Her Arrest
Hargrave has received support on social media from those close to her and people around the world after her arrest went viral, including family members, friends, fellow educators, politicians and parents.
“Deyshia Hargrave, you are my new hero,” Timala Melancon wrote on Facebook. “You spoke with such courage, intellect and poise. I am proud to know you.”
Louisiana State Representative Bob Hensgens wrote on Facebook, “Speech in the face of power!” with a link to the video of Hargrave’s comments and arrest.
Annette Herbert, Hargrave’s aunt, wrote on Facebook that she is “super proud” of her teacher niece.
“These teachers give their heart and soul for these kids every single day! It’s a shame that our school board members are only out for greed and power! Mr Fontana: I hope you can sleep at night knowing the chaos you have caused our Parish and the heart break you are bringing to our children!” she wrote.
Parent Tammy Buford wrote on Facebook, “We appreciate you Deyshia Hargrave for supporting our kids!!! … It is sad to watch someone that is defending the kids and the teachers be treated like she committed a crime! All because they couldn’t answer her !!! Go Deyshia Hargrave!”
A petition, “I Stand With Deyshia Hargrave” that was posted on Tuesday has received nearly 1,000 signatures.
“She, like other teachers and parents, had concerns about the school board voting to give the superintendent a raise. She made strong and valid points in her comment to the board but was dismissed. Deyshia was standing up for the children and their future. Teachers have not received a raise for all their hard and teaching in years,” the petition’s creator wrote. “What he did was wrong and it NEEDS to be addressed. What kind of a world are we living in where a superintendent has no care for children? A world where the school board votes for something so ridiculous. They arrested Deyshia and contacted the city police and then put her in a patrol unit. The video shows this all happened in front of numerous small children. It’s absolutely disgusting. This security guard needs to be fired at least. The superintendent should answer her questions.”