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Watch video of teacher arrested for questioning superintendent's raise

Shocking video of a teacher in Louisiana being handcuffed and removed from a school boarding meeting  Monday after she questioned the superintendent's raise is prompting outrage nationwide.

The new contract approved by the Vermilion Parish School Board enables the school chief to earn a possible $38,000 more a year. (The district is west of New Orleans.) Vermilion Parish teacher Deyshia Hargrave wanted to know if Superintendent Jerome Puyau would accept the increase knowing  teacher salaries haven't been raised in more than a decade. She told the school board the pay hike was a "slap in the is a sad, sad day to be a teacher in Vermilion Parish." While it was teachers and students who attained the academic targets for which the superintendent was being rewarded, Hargrave said, "At the top, that is not where kids learn. It is in the classroom, and those teachers like myself are not getting a dime from that. And that is unspeakable."

Hargrave's comments angered school board President Anthony Fontana, who defended the actions of an officer in removing her from the meeting.

He told KATC TV: "If a teacher has the authority to send a student, who is acting up and she can't control, out of the classroom to the principal's office, under our policy we have the same rules. We have certain rules: three-minute speech, it has to be civilized, it can't get off target, it has to be related to the issue before the board. That's not what was happening last night. The marshal did his job. He was taking her out. He wasn't arresting her. It escalated out in the hall and she ended up getting arrested. He did exactly what he was hired to do. He followed the procedures completely. She's the one who made the choices that got her arrested "

The Associated Press talked to two female school board members who told the news service that it's only women who have been ejected from meetings:

Women have several times been told to leave meetings, while men who speak out have not been removed, board member Laura LeBeouf told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

“When she realized she had to get out, she picked up her purse and walked out,” LeBeouf said. “Women in this parish are not getting the same treatment.”

The board’s other woman member expressed similar sentiments. “No reason for anyone to be treated this way. So far in three years, only women have been removed from board room meetings,” Sara Duplechain wrote in an emailed response to AP’s questions.

It remains unclear why Hargrave was handcuffed. In a longer video posted on YouTube by a reporter for the Abbeville Meridional, the officer is heard telling Hargrave outside the building that he had given her “many lawful orders to leave.” “And that’s exactly what I was doing,” Hargrave insists.

No charges will be filed against Hargrave. The Louisiana Association of Educators issued a statement about the incident.

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.

A campaign is underway for educators and public school advocates to wear red Friday to show their support of Hargrave. The New Orleans Times-Picayune took the school board leadership and police to task in a column today:

There are two major issues to discuss here: The first is the disrespect that publicly elected deliberative bodies routinely show the public.  The second is the disrespect that American law enforcement officers routinely show the same people. I don't know who's less tolerant of back talk - school board members or police - but people in both categories are notorious for throwing their weight around and punishing or attempting to punish people who address them.

Here is a video of the incident. What do you think? (This is just the incident; you can see a lot more of the exchanges between the teacher and board in this much longer video.)


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.