Teacher Arrested at Board Meeting for Questioning Superintendent’s Raise

Video footage shows the teacher calmly asking why the superintendent should receive a pay raise when teachers haven't received a pay increase in years.
Published: January 10, 2018

A Louisiana teacher was handcuffed and arrested at a school board meeting after questioning why the superintendent of her school district was going to receive a pay raise.

During the Monday night meeting, the Vermilion Parish School District school board voted to renew Superintendent Jerome Puyau’s contract for three years and increase his salary from $110,190 to $140,188.

Deyshia Hargrave, a language arts teacher at Rene Rost Middle School in Kaplan, La., asked school board members why there were planning to vote to give Puyau a raise when teachers hadn’t received a pay increase in years, reports The Washington Post.

The meeting and subsequent arrest were caught on video by a crew from KATC-TV and another meeting attendee.

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Hargrave was called on by school board members and said she believes the superintendent should not receive a raise when classroom sizes have increased significantly and teachers have not received a raise.

“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,” said Hargrave.

Hargrave was then called upon a second time for comment where she made similar statements. School board president Anthony Fontana said Hargrave’s comments were “not germane” to what was on the agenda, which many audience members disagreed with.

Teacher Handcuffed, Placed into Police Cruiser

A security officer then approached Hargrave and asked her to leave several times. Once Hargrave exited the meeting room into the hallway, the video shows her on the ground being handcuffed by the officer.

The security officer tells her to stop resisting in which Hargrave responds, “I’m not, you just pushed me to the floor. Sir, hold on, I am way smaller than you.”

The officer took Hargrave outside where he called for backup and placed her in an Abbeville police vehicle. She was booked into the city jail on charges of remaining after being forbidden and resisting an officer. She was able to post bond and left, according to WAFB.

Fontana defended Hargrave’s arrest, indicating she violated the rules of the meeting and was arrested because of a skirmish with the officer in the hallway, which was not caught on video.

Fontana also said Hargrave’s comments were a “set up” meant to prevent the superintendent from getting a proposed contract, reports NOLA.

Superintendent Puyau told KATC that the school district was not going to press charges against Hargrave. He alleges he told police the same thing but the teacher was booked anyways.

After talking with the school board’s attorney, Abbeville city attorney Ike Funderburk says the school board does not wish to pursue charges against the teacher. Funderburk also says he reviewed the video and will not approve of any charges against Hargrave.

Teacher Gets Support from School Board Members, Education Organizations

Hargrave has received support from many, including school board members and a civil liberties group.

Following her removal, school board member Laura LeBeouf addressed the board, stating, “What happened here tonight, the way that females are treated in Vermilion Parish. I have never seen a man removed from this room. I really did not find the behavior to be that disruptive. She was addressed by the board.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana released a statement Tuesday afternoon condemning Hargrave’s arrest as well.

“Deyshia Hargrave’s expulsion from a public meeting and subsequent arrest are unacceptable and raise serious constitutional concerns. The Constitution prohibits the government from punishing or retaliating against people for expressing their views, and the fact that a schoolteacher was arrested at a public meeting of the school board is especially troubling.”

The Louisiana Association of Educators, which Hargrave is a member of, also issued a statement following the incident.

“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.”

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