Teacher handcuffed after arguing at school board meeting speaks out

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School board president defends deputy's decision to arrest teacher during meeting

A teacher who was removed from a school board's special meeting Monday night is now speaking out about her treatment.

Deyshia Hargrave, an English language arts teacher at Rene Rost Middle Schools in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, addressed the board during the public comments portion of the meeting to discuss teacher salaries and pay raises.

Hargrave was questioning how the superintendent could get a raise, when teachers hadn't seen a pay increase in years.

After Hargrave posed several questions, board president Anthony Fontana ruled Hargrave out of order, warning her that the public comment section was not for a question-and-answer session.
Hargrave was called upon a second time for comment. After posing another question, an Abbeville city marshal on duty at the meeting grabbed Hargrave and removed her from the meeting. Handcuffs were later placed on Hargrave as she was removed from the building.

KATC-TV says it is unclear if the marshal was acting on his own accord or on the orders of board members. The superintendent says the board won't press charges.

The Louisiana Association of Educators posted a video statement from Hargrave Wednesday.

It reads:
Hi, I'm Deyshia Hargrave. I'm the middle school teacher in Vermillion Parish. I teach 5th and 6th grade ELA currently, English Language Arts. I love my job. I just went back to work from Christmas break yesterday and I attended a school board meeting where I planned to hear concerns or watch a vote take place about the superintendent and his contract. An um my voice was silenced during audience concerns for the superintendent. Um, by silencing my voice they have also taken away or trying to take away my first amendment rights to speak and I'm appalled and you should be too. Um, I was always taught that what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong and when you see something you should say it's wrong even though it doesn't involve you. Um this particular issue directly involved me, directly involved my students, my fellow educators and support staff, cafeteria works, citizens outside of the school system even, so I choose to speak out. I'm hoping that you choose to speak out after what happened to me and you don't let it become an intimidation to you, you let it be your strength because it's slowly becoming mine. When I went back to school today, I saw that my children's faces and they had so much care, so much love and so much gratitude for what I did and so did their parents. I would like to thank my community, my students, my fellow coworkers and educators. It was a huge deal that you not only messaged me, you wore black in support of me, you shared things on social media. You got vocal and that is the most important thing. So please don't let the conversation end with me. Please go to your local school board meetings. Speak out, be vocal. I continued to spread the word across out state, across our country in any way I can to make sure it doesn't happen to someone else and I can't do it alone so just join me and do what's right. Use your first amendment right, exercise your right to gather, to speak. A lot of people came before you to work really hard to ensure that that was there for you.

The teacher's union and the ACLU are investigating, and two board members are complaining that the board treats women unfairly.

Fontana said he stands behind the deputy marshal and the teacher's arrest.
"If a teacher has the authority to send a student that's acting up in the classroom that she can't control, out of the classroom to the principal's office, under our policy, we have the same rules. We have certain rules, three minute speech, etc. It's got to be civilized. You can't get off target. It's got to be related to the issue before the board. And that's not what was happening last night," Fontana said.

A video posted by KATC-TV shows middle-school English teacher Deyshia Hargrave complying with a city marshal's orders to leave Monday night's Vermilion Parish School Board meeting in Abbeville, west of New Orleans. Next, she is seen on the hallway floor, screaming as the marshal handcuffs her behind her back.

"Stop resisting," the marshal says, hustling Hargrave toward an exit after lifting her to her feet.

"I am not, you just pushed me to the floor," Hargrave responds.

Hargrave later bonded out of the Abbeville jail on charges of "remaining after being forbidden" and resisting an officer, according to KATC.

"This is the most disgraceful and distasteful thing I have ever seen," an audience member said as Hargrave made her way out.

Women have several times been told to leave meetings, while men who speak out have not been removed, board member Laura LeBeouf told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
"When she realized she had to get out, she picked up her purse and walked out," LeBeouf said. "Women in this parish are not getting the same treatment."

The other female on the school board expressed similar sentiments.

"No reason for anyone to be treated this way. So far in 3 years, only women have been removed from board room meetings," Sara Duplechain wrote in an emailed response to AP's questions.

It remains unclear why Hargrave was handcuffed. In a longer video posted on YouTube by a reporter for the Abbeville Meridional, the officer is heard telling Hargrave outside the building that he had given her "many lawful orders to leave."

"And that's exactly what I was doing," Hargrave insists.

Superintendent Jerome Puyau told media in southwest Louisiana that the school system would not seek to have Hargrave prosecuted.

Longstanding divisions on the eight-member school board preceded the meeting, according to LeBeouf and board member Kibbie Pillette, both of whom said that a new contract for Puyau give him the opportunity to earn as much as $38,000 more per year, while the board hasn't raised teacher salaries in more than a decade.
Pillette said he wouldn't be surprised if teachers decide to walk out to protest Hargrave's treatment, although they were at work Tuesday.

Other board members either declined comment or didn't respond to queries Tuesday.

The Louisiana Association of Educators has a lawyer supporting Hargrave.

"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," the union's statement said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana said it was investigating as well.

"Deyshia Hargrave's expulsion from a public meeting and subsequent arrest are unacceptable and raise serious constitutional concerns," the organization said in an emailed news release.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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