VERMILION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - A Vermilion Parish middle school teacher was removed and subsequently arrested after speaking out during a school board meeting Monday night. The actions have sparked international outrage on social media and have inspired alleged death threats against members of the school board.
During the meeting, the board voted to renew Superintendent Jerome Puyau's contract for three years, while also giving him a pay raise.
Deyshia Hargrave, an English teacher at Rene Rost Middle School, addressed the school board during the public comment portion of the meeting, speaking out against the pay raises.
"A superintendent, or any person in a position of leadership getting any type of raise, I feel like is a slap in the face to all the teachers, cafeteria workers, and other support staff we have," Hargrave told the board.
Hargrave reportedly asked the board several questions and was ruled "out of order" by school board president, Anthony Fontana, who tells 9News he had warned her the public comment portion of the meeting was for comments, not questions. After attempting to ask one more question, a city marshal, who also serves as a resource officer, approached Hargrave and began attempting to remove her from the meeting. The marshal handcuffed Hargrave and video shows a brief struggle in the hallway outside the meeting as the educator screamed, demanding to know why she was being arrested.
"What are you doing? Are you kidding me?" Hargrave screamed.
"Stop resisting," the marshal said.
"I am not! You just pushed me to the floor!" Hargrave screamed.
The struggle outside the meeting now has the world watching. The arrest has set social media on fire and several folks have called the treatment of the teacher disgusting. The ordeal even hit national television Tuesday as co-hosts of the CBS daytime show, The Talk, weighed in.
"She wasn't being violent," said Sharon Osbourne. "She wasn't lashing out at anybody."
"And she was speaking her mind during the public comments portion of the meeting," Julie Chen added.
Locally, folks on both sides of the issue are fired up.
In a phone interview late Tuesday evening, Fontana told WAFB's Scottie Hunter he stands behind the officer's actions, saying he believes the real blame actually falls on the teacher. "This is not about the board, it's about the teacher and everybody wants to side on the poor little woman who got thrown out," said Fontana. "Well she made a choice. She could have walked out and nothing would have happened."
President of the Louisiana Association of Educators, Debbie Meaux, says she is appalled by Fontana's comments and believes what happened in the video is wrong. "He's right. This didn't have to happen to this 'little woman' as he calls her, but her name is Deyshia Hargrave," said Meaux.
The school board has since said they will not pursue charges against Hargrave and the city's attorney also says he has reviewed the video and will not prosecute the educator.
Fontana says the social media firestorm around the incident has gotten out of hand. He claims the video does not show all the facts, but already he and his colleagues have gotten death threats.
"You would not believe the obscenities and the threats that are coming across this phone because of this stupid a** video," Fontana fumed. "I mean this is absurd."
Meaux believes more violence is not the answer, but says the message must be sent that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.
"I'm sure that this has happened in other meetings and in other places," said Meaux.