Louisiana educators are set to gather at a rally today where they are encouraged to wear black in support of a teacher who was arrested at a school board meeting during an altercation caught on camera.
Deyshia Hargrave, an English language arts teacher at Rene A. Rost Middle School in Kaplan, Louisiana, was handcuffed and taken into custody Monday after she was removed from the meeting, where she raised issues about the Vermilion Parish School System superintendent’s new three-year contract that includes a raise, ABC Lafayette affiliate KATC-TV reported. Hargrave has said teachers haven't had a raise in years, according to KATC.
At the meeting an Abbeville city deputy marshal employed by the school district confronted Hargrave, asking her to sit down or be removed, according to KATC.
Hargrave left on her own but the dispute between the teacher and the marshal became physical outside the meeting room. The middle school teacher is seen on video screaming on the ground and being handcuffed by the deputy marshal.
Hargrave was arrested by the Abbeville Police Department but Abbeville city attorney and prosecutor Ike Funderburk told KATC that after watching the video, he will not prosecute Hargrave.
The Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) and Vermilion Association of Educators said they are hosting this afternoon's rally in Abbeville, Louisiana, in support of Hargrave and the educators and students of Vermilion Parish.
LAE President Debbie Meaux and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said in a joint statement, “As educators, students are at the center of everything we do and the voices of educators are essential to ensuring a great education for every child regardless of ZIP code. The arrest of middle school educator and LAE and NEA member Deyshia Hargrave is a chilling infringement on her rights but educators will not be silenced."
In a Facebook video posted by Louisiana Association of Educators, Hargrave explained that she went to the meeting that night to "hear concerns or watch a vote take place about the superintendent's contract."
"My voice was silenced during audience concerns for the superintendent," she said. "By silencing my voice, they've also taken away, or tried to take away, my First Amendment right to speak. And I'm appalled at this and you should be too.
"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 … so I chose to speak out," she said. "I'm hoping that you choose to speak out after seeing what happened to me and you don't let it become an intimidation to you."
Besides support from educators, Hargrave also has support from the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, which called Hargrave’s arrest "unacceptable" and warned that it raises "serious constitutional concerns."
However, Superintendent Jerome Puyau, whose raise was being questioned by the teacher, defended the marshal's actions in an interview with KATC.
"Our people know what to do, and when it happened, that person, that marshal, acted in what we asked him to do," said Puyau.
School board president Anthony Fontana also defended the actions of the officer in an interview with KATC, comparing the action taken to a student’s being punished for unruliness.
"If a teacher has the authority to send a student, who is acting up and she can't control, out of the classroom to the principal's office, under our policy we have the same rules," Fontana said. "We have certain rules: Three-minute speech, it has to be civilized, it can't get off target, it has to be related to the issue before the board. That's not what was happening last night.
"The marshal did his job," Fontana added. "He was taking her out. He wasn't arresting her. He was escorting her out, telling her, 'Don't come back tonight.' It escalated out in the hall and she ended up getting arrested.”