Rally held for teacher arrested at school board meeting; superintendent walks back initial opinion of incident

Deyshia Hargrave released a video statement on the Louisiana Association of Educators' Facebook page (Source: Facebook)
Deyshia Hargrave released a video statement on the Louisiana Association of Educators' Facebook page (Source: Facebook)

Several teachers' unions held a rally in Abbeville Thursday in support of middle school teacher, Deyshia Hargrave, who gained worldwide attention when she was arrested after speaking out during a school board meeting.

During the meeting, Hargrave questioned why Superintendent Jerome Puyau was receiving almost a $30,000 pay increase with his new contract that was approved by the school board that night.

The Louisiana Association of Educators and Vermilion Association of Educators hosted the rally for Hargrave at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, January 11 at Magdalen Square in Abbeville. The teachers' unions say the purpose of the rally is to raise support for Hargrave, as well as all educators and students in Louisiana.

Just days after the educator's voice was silenced, many others joined together to send a clear and unified message.

Dozens of teachers, parents, and other supporters of Hargrave overtook Magdalen Square in the middle of the small town, rallying to ensure what happened to her does not happen to anyone else. "We're hoping that this brings about change that we can feel safe in asking questions and getting some answers," said one of Hargrave's colleagues, Jessica Riebel.

Hargrave, who was forcibly removed and arrested while questioning the school superintendent's pay raise Monday, says she has found strength in her experience and urges others to not stay silent. "What happened to me should not dissuade others from speaking out and hope and pray that my experience will empower you," said Hargrave.

With several hand-written signs sending essentially the same strong message at the rally, Puyau's stance seems to be changing. In a tear-soaked interview with CBS News, the school leader had no shortage of regrets after he says they have been swamped with death threats from around the country. "It's so hard to see all this negative. It is, it's tough," he said.

He even went as far as to blame himself for what happened. "I should have stood up, okay? It's what you want to hear and it's the truth. I should have stood up," he said.

Just hours before that interview, Puyau struck a much different tone with local reporters. "She was not arrested for asking a question, straightforward," he said. "That is not even it. You have to follow rules. You have to."

The quick change now has some like Vermillion Association of Educators president, Suzanne Breaux, confused. "He's clearly apologizing, but then in the next sentence, he says that's what you want from me," said Breaux. "Well that's not what we want if you don't sincerely mean it."

While the world continues to watch this one, she hopes his change of heart is truly what it appears. WAFB's Scottie Hunter asked Breaux if it was concerning to her that the superintendent said one thing to local media outlets and something entirely different to a national audience.

"I just hope that he's sincere and he's not just doing it for a show," Breaux replied.

LAE President Debbie Meaux and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García released the following joint statement regarding the arrest of Hargrave.

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. We encourage all educators to wear black on Thursday, January 11th to stand in solidarity with Ms. Hargrave and the students of Vermilion Parish.

Hargrave issued a video statement on Wednesday afternoon about Monday night's incident. She implored others to not be afraid to speak out against what they believe is wrong and encouraged them to become involved in their communities.

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