(Update: comment from school board president; reaction from Louisiana Association of Educators)
A teacher asking tough questions of school board members in the Vermilion Parish School District in Louisiana was escorted out of the meeting by a security officer and handcuffed on the floor and arrested, videos of the event show.
Deyshia Hargrave, an English language-arts teacher at Rene Rost Middle School, asked board members Monday night why they were planning to vote to give Superintendent Jerome Puyau a raise when teachers had not had a pay increase in years. The meeting and arrest were videotaped by a crew from KATC-TV, as well as by someone else who was present.
School Board President Anthony Fontana said in an interview that the security officer did nothing wrong. “He was just doing his job,” he said.
Other members of the board and Puyau did not respond to queries about the arrest. Hargrave was at Rene Rost teaching Tuesday, according to a school spokesman, but the school would say nothing else about the case. A spokesman for the local marshal’s office could not be reached for comment.
Hargrave waited to be called on to address the board. When she first spoke, she talked about why she did not want the board to give the superintendent a raise and said this about teachers in the parish, a unit of government similar to a county:
“We work very hard with very little to maintain the salaries that we have. And as I’ve been teaching the last few years I’ve seen class sizes grow enormously. . . . It’s a sad, sad day to be a teacher in Vermilion Parish.”
Her comments about the raise were ruled out of order by Fontana, who said Hargrave could not ask questions and expect answers during the public comment period. While some in the audience took issue with that, she sat down and the meeting went forward.
Hargrave was called upon a second time for comment. Again, she asked board members how they could raise the salary of the superintendent when teachers and students did the work in the classroom, again noting that educators were not getting pay increases.
Then, a security officer from the marshal’s office in Abbeville, La., walked up to Hargrave and asked her to leave repeatedly. They argued and at one point, the officer put his hand on Hargrave’s arm. She pulled back and soon left. The video does not show what happened immediately after the two got into the hallway but she can be seen on the floor, being handcuffed. She was then arrested. According to KATC, she was booked into the city jail on charges that included resisting an officer. She paid bond and left.
According to Fontana, Hargrave had violated rules of the meeting. He said she was arrested because she started a skirmish with the officer in the hallway. Fontana said he had left his seat and gone to the door after Hargrave was led out of the meeting and saw the start of the skirmish, which was not shown on any of the videos.
Puyau told KATC that the school district was not going to press charges against Hargrave and that he told police the same thing, but the teacher was booked anyway. She could be tried on the charges without the cooperation of the school board. The Louisiana Association of Educators said she is working with its attorney.
Here’s a video of part of the board meeting leading up to the arrest. It is 12 minutes but worth watching.
And here’s a statement from the Louisiana Association of Educators: