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Vermillion Parish Supt. on Hargrave’s Arrest: “I Should Have Stood Up, Okay?”

January 11, 2018

When Vermillion Parish (Louisiana) teacher Deyshia Hargrave was escorted out of a January 08, 2018, school board meeting as she was responding to superintendent Jerome Puyhau, who had directly addressed her, Puyau chose not to intervene.

Board president Anthony Fontana signaled for officer Reggie Hilts to take some action as Hargrave was speaking, though what Fontana intended Hilts to actually do once he reached Hargrave remains unclear.

What Hilts did was throw Hargrave to the floor, cuff her, and drag her from the building once she was in the hallway. Nothing about Hargrave’s behavior warranted Hilt’s excessive display of force.

Neither Puyau nor Fontana exhibited any shock at Hilts’ actions.

Hilts has a history of using unnecessary force.

Still, Puyau defends him. From CBS on January 11, 2018:

While emotional over the backlash, Puyau says he doesn’t blame the deputy marshal who arrested Hargrave.

“I’m the superintendent, I’m to blame,” he said. “I should have stood up, okay? That’s what you want to hear and it’s the truth, I should have stood up….Let her speak.”

Puyau said no one on the board directed the city marshal to escort Hargrave out. The marshal was contracted to work security at the meeting, but Puyau said they don’t plan on having him again. He also noted the deputy is a well-liked school resource officer at one of the district middle schools, and does not plan on firing him. CBS News has reached out to the marshal but has not heard back.

However, in an interview a day earlier with KATC, Puyau said that he supported Hilts’ actions and that Hilts was simply following orders.

Puyau defended both Hilts’ excessive force and “protocol” while failing to acknowledge that he himself chose to break protocol in choosing to continue a conversation with Hargrave. Public upset over Hargrave’s arrest– an unnecessary arrest that Puyau had the authority to prevent if only he had exercised a skilled leader’s sensitivity in responding to the situation– has led to death threats for both Puyah and Vermillion school board members.

From KATC on January 10, 2018:

Many in Vermilion Parish are getting death threats over the arrest of middle school teacher Deyshia Hargrave, including the parish’s superintendent, Jerome Puyau.

Puyau is pleading for death threats against himself, his family and others in the school system to stop.

“Leave our communities out and our schools.. just stay away,” begs Puyau.

Despite the threats and overwhelming outrage, Puyau stands by the officer who escorted Hargrave out of the building in handcuffs.

“Our people know what to do, and when it happened, that person, that marshal acted in what we asked him to do,” said the Vermilion Parish superintendent.

When the question was raised whether Puyau believes he should have acted differently during Monday’s meeting, he said it would have all come down to protocol.

“Protocol says: Go to the podium. State your name. You have three minutes. That way, there is no ambiguity if someone received the authority to speak or not,” said Puyau.

It seems that Puyau has found himself in a corner and forced to admit fault. Indeed he is the superintendent, and he most certainly should have prevented Hargrave’s exit.

All he had to say to Hilts was, “It’s okay. She is responding to an inquiry that I initiated. I understand why teachers would become upset at my receiving a raise, and I believe they should be allowed to speak.”

Such an empathic (strategic?) response surely would have curtailed the profound public outcry from which Puyau must now extract himself.

Ironically, Puyau’s own failure to act in the moment in defending Hargrave at the questionable meeting at which his contract was finally renewed could be his actual undoing as superintendent in Vermillion Parish.

In his January 11, 2018, CBS interview, Puyau was in tears. However, the timing of his tears betrays that Puyau is likely crying not for Hargrave, but for himself.

As of this writing, Puyau has offered Hargrave no public apology.

On January 11, 2018, Abbeville City Marshal Jeremiah Bolden called for an independent investigation into Hilts’ incident with Hargraves.

photo (4)  Jerome Puyau, in tears



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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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  1. Daedalus permalink

    Any independent confirmation of the ‘death threats’? Now, in the age of Trump, I don’t think we can believe the claims of those who use strong-arm tactics anymore. I’d like to hear recordings. I tend to think (given nothing other than the claims of Puyau) that this is an act being presented to garner sympathy for him and his henchman.

    AND! Wow! I bet ;the parents of those kids in the Middle School are just ecstatic knowing that a thug like Hilts is in charge of ‘protecting’ their sons and daughters.

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