A Louisiana teacher who spoke out against a superintendent’s new contract was handcuffed and arrested during a school board meeting in an incident caught on video.
At the meeting Monday, Deyshia Hargrave brought up the issue of teacher salary and a raise that was included in a new contract for the superintendent, according to members of the Vermilion Parish School Board. Hargrave is an English language arts teacher at Rene A. Rost Middle School in Kaplan, Louisiana, according to the school’s website.
Board members told NBC News that the meeting was called to vote on whether to approve a new contract for superintendent Jermone Puyau. The final version of the contract that was approved included a $30,000 raise for Puyau, Board President Anthony Fontana said.
“I have a serious issue with a superintendent or any person in a position of leadership getting any type of raise. I feel like it’s a slap in the face for the teachers, the cafeteria workers or any other support staff we have,” Hargrave is seen saying in the video posted to YouTube.
Hargrave later raises her hand and when called on again asks a question about the issue of teacher salaries and pay raises.
A member of the school board interrupts her, saying that her question was not related to the evening’s agenda.
Several in the crowd can then be heard saying “yes, it is,” in support of Hargrave.
The board member said what was on the agenda was the superintendent’s new contract and members of the audience answer back, “with a raise.”
Hargrave continues to ask her question when a city marshal approaches her and tells her she needs to leave.
“You need to leave, or I’m going to remove you,” the unidentified marshal says on the video.
Hargrave grabs her purse and leaves as some protest that Puyau had been addressing the teacher even as she was being forced to leave.
Suddenly, Hargrave can be heard yelling. The video then shows the woman on the floor in the hallway, where she is being handcuffed behind the back by the marshal. The marshal asks the teacher to “stop resisting” and escorts her from the building.
Outside the building, the marshal tells her she is being arrested for refusing to leave and resisting arrest.
Fontana, the board president, told NBC News that Hargrave had violated meeting policies, by taking up extra time and asking questions during a public comment section.
“She got away from what I believe was the germane issue,” he said.
Fontana, who voted in favor of the final contract, said the board employs a city marshal to provide security during meetings.
“His job is to make sure that we have orderly board meetings. He knows what our policy is and he knows how to handle it,” he said. Fontana said it would have been the marshal’s duty to escort her out of the meeting but not arrest her unless she had committed a crime. While he did not witness everything that led to Hargrave’s attest, he “absolutely” stood by the marshal, he said.
Board member Laura LeBeouf, who voted against the contract, said she was “very appalled” by the incident.
“I personally apologize for the Vermilion Parish School Board,” she said, adding, “This is a sad day for Vermilion Parish.”
“I don’t think it needed to come to the extreme that it came to,” she said.
LeBeouf added that Hargrave is “a great teacher, a great individual.”
Requests for comment from Hargrave and Puyau were not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.
Puyau told NBC affiliate KLAF that he has not received a pay increase since he signed a previous contract five years. He added that at the time he accepted a lower salary than what was offered to him.
The superintendent said he was going “to work hard to unify, but everybody has to be willing to unify.”
He also added that his door “is always open” for teachers and parents to voice their concerns.
“There’s a time and a place for everything, but there’s rules and protocols,” he added.
Hargrave was booked into the Abbeville City Jail on Monday evening on charges of resisting an officer and remaining on premises after being forbidden there, arrest records show.
Hargrave was released from jail on bond, The Associated Press reported.
The Louisiana Association of Educators said in a statement Tuesday that one of its attorney’s was working with Hargrave on the next steps to take.
“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,” the statement said. “It is every citizen’s right to speak up for their beliefs. Any action that infringes upon this right is unlawful and unacceptable.”
The association said it was respecting Hargrave’s wishes and would refrain from additional comment while the case was still ongoing.