Louisiana teacher handcuffed in pay dispute says she does not blame the marshal who arrested her
A US teacher who was handcuffed and arrested after questioning her superior’s pay rise at a public school board meeting has said she does not think the man who arrested her should lose his job.
Deyshia Hargrave was escorted out of the school by deputy city marshal Reggie Hilts after she contested a planned salary increase for the Louisiana school board member despite teachers not being given one in a decade.
Around 100 supporters attended a rally, chanting “Stand by Deyshia” and waving signs promoting free speech to condemn the treatment of the English teacher.
Ms Hargrave said her arrest emphasised the need to speak out on important issues and hoped the case would serve as a positive example to her students.
“I hope and pray my experience will empower you — my students, young women everywhere — to know that you have a voice,” Hargrave told the crowd.
“Use it. Many, many women suffered tremendously and sacrificed greatly for us to have this voice… And this is for the boys, too. You matter.”
The turmoil followed the board’s 5-3 vote approving a new three-year contract raising Vermilion schools superintendent Jerome Puyau’s salary by roughly $US38,000, to about $US177,000 annually, with incentive targets that could add 3 per cent a year.
Video of the meeting shows Ms Hargrave addressed the superintendent directly after raising her hand and being invited to speak. She was then asked to leave.
The officer followed her into the hallway, where moments later, a camera recorded her on the floor with her hands behind her back, being handcuffed and complaining that the officer had pushed her down.
Ms Hargrave said she felt her First Amendment rights were violated during the arrest and was considering filing a lawsuit.
However, the middle school teacher said she did not believe Mr Hilts — a former police officer who is a pastor and is popular at the school where he works — should be disciplined for arresting her.
It comes after revelations that Mr Hilts and a fellow officer were accused of slamming a 62-year-old man’s head onto concrete when making an arrest in 2011, an accusation he denies.
“He needs training,” Ms Hargrave said.
“Whether he needs to lose his job, I don’t know.”
‘We care about our teachers and our support staff’
During the meeting Ms Hargrave questioned Mr Puyau’s raise given that teachers have not received an increase in 10 years, despite growing class sizes and other demands.
Vermilion Parish School board president Anthony Fontana then declared that her comment was not “germane” to the vote on the contract, and banged his gavel in an attempt to silence her.
According to school board member Kibbie Pillette, Mr Fontana then beckoned off-camera to the officer, who interrupted Ms Hargrave while she was speaking and ordered her out.
“I’m going,” she said, making her way out.
Ms Hargrave said the blame for her arrest lies solely with Mr Fontana and called for him to resign.
The American Civil Liberties Union and her teachers union are investigating Ms Hargrave’s case.
Mr Puyau, who said he began receiving hate mail and threatening phone calls as the video spread on the internet, wouldn’t comment on who ordered the teacher’s removal, but said he was not happy with how things played out.
“It was not good in any way,” he said.
“We are a good community. It took everybody by surprise. I’m having a hard time with this, but we care about our teachers and our support staff.”