Teacher arrested after speaking out at Vermilion Parish school board meeting

Alleged death threats, social media firestorm ensue after teacher arrested during school board meeting
Published: Jan. 9, 2018 at 5:04 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 9, 2018 at 5:53 PM CST
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Deyshia Hargrave (Source: Abbeville Police Department)
Deyshia Hargrave (Source: Abbeville Police Department)

ABBEVILLE, LA (WAFB) - A Vermilion Parish middle school teacher was removed and subsequently arrested after speaking out during a school board meeting Monday night, according to a report from KATC-TV. The teacher will not face charges according to the Abbeville city prosecutor.

During the meeting, the board voted to renew Superintendent Jerome Puyau's contract for three years. KATC reported that Puyau's salary would increase from $110,190 to $140,188 with his new contract. The new contract also includes incentives for additional pay raises based on his performance.

RELATED: Arrest of Louisiana teacher at school board meeting gains national attention, reaction

The school district improved its state ranking from a B to an A during Puyau's tenure, according to KATC. Twelve of the district's schools were received an A ranking in 2017, compared with three when Puyau became superintendent in 2013.

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. He warned Hargrave that the public comment section was not a question and answer session, according to KATC.

When Hargrave was called on for the second time and posed another question she was approached by an Abbeville city marshal. The marshal then removed her from the meeting.

The marshal handcuffed Hargrave while she was leaving the building and a brief struggle ensued as Hargrave screamed on the floor while the marshal tried to gain control of her.

"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.

Superintendent Puyau told KATC Monday night that the school board would not be filing charges against the teacher. When asked by WAFB for comment Tuesday morning, Payou declined to comment on the incident.

9News has learned that Hargrave was arrested by the Abbeville city marshal on charges of remaining after being forbidden and resisting an officer. She was booked into the Abbeville Police Department and bonded out, according to Lt. David Hardy.

Abbeville's city attorney and prosecutor, Ike Funderburk, told KATC after reviewing the video he would not be prosecuting Hargrave.

"I talked with the attorney for the school board, and they do not wish to pursue any charges against the teacher," Funderburk told the Lafayette TV station.

The Abbeville city prosecutor also told KATC that the marshal who arrested Hargrave is a school resource officer who is employed by the school board. The marshal was not acting in any capacity "on behalf of the city of Abbeville" at the time of her arrest, he said.

Calls made by 9News to the Abbeville City Marshal's Office were not immediately returned.

KATC reported it was unclear if the marshal was instructed by the board to remove Hargrave or decided to it on his own accord.

After Hargrave was removed, Vermilion Parish School Board Member Laura LeBeouf addressed the board saying, "What happened here tonight, the way that females are treated in Vermilion Parish. I have never seen a man removed from this room."

"I really did not find the behavior to be that disruptive," LeBeouf told 9News. "She was addressed by the board."

Requests by 9News to school board president Anthony Fontana were not immediately returned. However, Fontana told KATC reporter Valerie Ponseti that he supported the marshal's decision to remove the teacher from the school board meeting.

The ACLU of Louisiana released a statement Tuesday afternoon, condemning the arrest of Hargrave. The statement reads:

Deyshia Hargrave's expulsion from a public meeting and subsequent arrest are unacceptable and raise serious constitutional concerns. The Constitution prohibits the government from punishing or retaliating against people for expressing their views, and the fact that a schoolteacher was arrested at a public meeting of the school board is especially troubling. The ACLU of Louisiana will continue to investigate this incident and defend the constitutional rights of all Louisianans. We urge anyone whose rights have been violated to contact us.

The Louisiana Association of Educators, which Hargrave is a member of, also issued a statement about her arrest at the school board meeting:

LAE was informed of the situation involving Deyshia Hargrave since shortly after the incident occurred. She is, in fact, a member of our association, and our attorney, Mr. Brian Blackwell, is working with her on next steps - he has been since Monday (1/8) evening.

As an organization that advocates for the dedicated school employees of Louisiana, we firmly denounce the mistreatment of Ms. Hargrave, a loving parent and dedicated teacher serving the students of Vermilion Parish. It is every citizen's right to speak up for their beliefs. Any action that infringes upon this right is unlawful and unacceptable.

We will continue to support the right of every single school employee to take an interest in, and ultimately stand up for, the best interests of their schools and their students.

Aside from these remarks, our association will honor Ms. Hargrave's wishes and refrain from any additional comments at this time, as the case is ongoing.

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