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La. Teacher Thrown to Ground and Cuffed At School Board Meeting

January 9, 2018

On January 08, 2018, Vermillion Parish (Louisiana) teacher Deyshia Hargrave questioned board approval of a $38,000 pay raise for the district superintendent in light of the fact that district teachers and other staff have not received a raise in 6 years, since 2012.

She was apparently out of order for speaking too long and for asking board members questions. It seems that she did so on two occasions. However, the point at which a school resource officer stepped in was one in which Hargrave was responding to a question asked of her by a board member.

Based on the video excerpt below, Hargrave’s behavior in the meeting certainly did not warrant arrest:

(Update 01-10-18: If you cannot view video due to computer security settings giving a “restricted mode” message, know that the Heavy article linked below details the contents of the video and more.)

What is troubling is that Hargrave was apparently trying to address issues negatively affecting the classroom before a board president who preferred to hide behind open meetings procedures rather than address genuine public concerns. The incident is examined in greater detail in this Heavy article. Some excerpts:

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.” …

“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. …

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. …

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, Reggie Hilts, who was working security at the meeting can be seen walking toward her, apparently after Fontana motioned for her to be removed.

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, Reggie Hilts, 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,” Hilts 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.”

Hilts 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 Hilts 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?” Hilts 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.

Local news station KATC was present at the meeting; below is a KATC news segment, in which one board member notes that negative treatment in board meetings seems to fall on women and not men:

According to a KATC update, the superintendent, Jerome Puyau, has attempted to communicate that the board will not press charges. TheAbbeville city attorney also stated that he will not prosecute Hargrave, who had the expense of posting bail.

KATC is unsure whether the officer acted on his own accord in deciding to arrest Hargrave.

Both the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), the union to which Hargrave belongs, and the ACLU released statements condemning Hargrave’s arrest.

Board president Anthony Fontana dismissed the incident as a “set up.” However, according to Heavy, it was Fontana who seemed to motion for the officer to act as she was answering a question directed to her by the superintendent, and it was Fontana who declined to comment about whether or not his intention was to have Hargrave arrested.

Nothing about Hargrave’s actions indicates that she was part of some scheme to have herself arrested.

As of this writing, one board member has apparently publicly apologized to Hargrave. From Heavy:

Another school board member, Laura LeBeouf, telling NBC News she was “very appalled” by the incident.

“I personally apologize for the Vermilion Parish School Board. This is a sad day for Vermilion Parish. I don’t think it needed to come to the extreme that it came to,” she told NBC News.

According to KATC, Hargrave’s attorney says that she is expected to offer a public statement “tomorrow,” which is presumably January 10, 2018, given that the KATC article was updated January 09, 2018.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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32 Comments
  1. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Wow

  2. Abigail Shure permalink

    Mercedes,

    This is revolting! I can’t bear to read the links.

  3. speduktr permalink

    Keep us updated , please.

  4. Voice of Dil permalink

    Nice Article …Please visit us too https://voiceofdil.com/2018/01/10/who-we-are/

  5. The links are not working to the video. Did someone get them pulled?

    • Possibly. I will check on it today. The Heavy article details the exchange captured in the video.

      • It was blocked by the firewall at my school. I watched it on my phone and it is one of the most disturbing videos I’ve seen in a long time. WOW!!

      • Any updates on the teacher dragged from the board meeting. The meeting in Houston made me think about this incident.

      • Hi, David. No more updates on the teacher. I have sought an interview with her twice, and she has declined, which is her right, so I have let her be.

    • Thank you for the info about the firewall. I, too, tried to access at school and was blocked.

      • Laura H. Chapman permalink

        The “firewall” issue is worth more discussion. I can see the value/necessity for students, but blocking news relevant to and about teachers strikes me as censorship, especially if other newsworthy events can be accessed at school.

  6. For at least two decades, there have been assaults on unions, teachers, public schools. Reductions in resources & funding, over-testing, ludicrous goal-setting set for teachers, Common Core, increased class sizes,& more are tactics being used to silence voices of teachers, parents & students.
    We Americans must work, protest, stand together to fight for our rights, for equality, and against privatization of American democratic institutions of which education is key to our children’s successes & healthy, prosperous futures.

  7. LA Educator permalink

    This video was shown on The Talk & CBS Evening News yesterday. They can forget about keeping this quiet. I hope that Ms. Hargrave is able to press charges against the Board President who seemed to orchestrate her arrest with a wave of his hand, as well as the officer, who appears to be hurting her in the video. Also a female board member claims that only women who ask unwanted questions are arrested in Vermillion Parish School Board meetings. This is a violation of free speech & possibly assault. Something is rotten in Vermillion Parish!

    • Laura H. Chapman permalink

      Something is rotten in Vermillion Parish! Right and the teacher was arrested in a public meeting where she was prepared to say exacly what was rotten.

  8. ape permalink

    You rotten dirty dogs ignorant slum dog creeps who have the intelligence of an ape

  9. The more I replay this in my head the only conclusion is that this did not have to happen this way. She was asked to leave and she was leaving. The Officer completely overreacted, he didn’t have to push her to the ground and aggressively handcuff her. Then he pushes her out the door claiming she is resisting. I would resist if someone started pushing me around for no reason. The reaction of the school board member who directed the officer to arrest her is completely out of line. Someone on the panel asked her a direct question, therefore giving her the floor to speak, so she was within her rights to speak. This makes me ill.

  10. The sad thing about this is if the teacher wins in court (and she probably will or there will be a large settlement out of court) and ends up with a big settlement, the taxpayers that probably would support her right to speak out without being tossed to the ground and handcuffed will have to pay for it.

    The lesson I learned is that if I go to a board meeting to speak out, I’m taking some of my combat vet friends with me and have them sit on either side of me.

    In fact, if you are a woman and want to speak out, go to a local vet center and see if you can get some military combat vets to come sit on either side of you and ask them to wear their hats that advertise who they are: USMC, Special Forces, etc. I know several that would probably do it and one special forces medic who is decades younger than me that jump at the change to kick ass if a teacher’s 1st amendment rights were censored. He once took our four men with big mouths in front of a supermarket in 2.5 seconds because they threatened to follow him home and show his wife what real men were like. They weren’t talking trash when he was done. They were on the ground groaning in pain.

    The officer that arrested her would be at risk of serious bodily injury.

    • When this is over, I expect the officer to be unemployed for using excessive force and unlawful arrest.

      • I hope the officer loses his job and so does his boss. And who ordered him to escort that teacher out of the meeting? That autocratic fascist should lose their job too and be taken to court separately.

      • In fact he should have assault charges filed against him.

  11. Kathleen Rosenthal permalink

    What a great civics lesson!

  12. Please update this story.

    What happened to the teacher?

    What happened to the board members?

    What happened to the police officer?

    Thanks

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Police in Schools, at Democratic Assemblies Problematic | Network Schools - Wayne Gersen
  2. Officer Who Used Excessive Force on La. Teacher Sued for Same in 2012 | deutsch29
  3. Vermillion Parish Supt. on Hargrave’s Arrest: “I Should Have Stood Up, Okay?” | deutsch29
  4. La. Teacher Thrown to Ground and Cuffed at School Board Meeting: Follow-Up | deutsch29
  5. Louisiana Teacher Arrested at January 2018 Board Meeting Vindicated by Judge’s Ruling | deutsch29

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