Teacher Arrested at School Board Meeting After Questioning Superintendent Contract

The ordeal started when the school board met in a special session to vote on the renewal of Mr. Puyau’s contract. As Ms. Hargrave spoke against the renewal after the vote, a marshal approached her.

“You are going to leave or I am going to remove you,” the marshal told her. “Take your things and go.”

“Excuse me,” she said to him. “Is it against policy to stand?” Ms. Hargrave asked the board, as the marshal tried to grab her arm. “Sir, do not,” she said.

She started to walk sideways through the assembly to leave, as some protested, noting that Mr. Puyau had started to directly address Ms. Hargrave just as the marshal tried to eject her.

When it became apparent that Ms. Hargrave was being handcuffed in the hallway, the audience appeared startled. Several followed her into the hallway, and the video showed her on the floor and then standing, handcuffed, with the marshal behind her. “Stop resisting,” he said as he walked her outside.

“I am not — you just pushed me to the floor. I am way smaller than you,” she said.

Outside, the marshal called for backup. He is heard saying to her that he had given her orders to leave, and Ms. Hargrave, standing in the dark against a car, replied, saying she was “walking and asking you a question.”

She was placed in an Abbeville police patrol car.

The meeting ended shortly after the episode, Laura LeBeouf, a school board member, said Tuesday in a phone interview.

It was expected to be a contentious meeting, she said. Board members had long been split on renewal of the superintendent’s contract, but the death of a board member in November changed the composition of the board. A 4-4 deadlock became 5-3 in favor of the new contract as the appointed member voted in favor of the renewal, she said.

Ms. LeBeouf, who voted against the renewal, said teachers had gone without a permanent raise in 10 years. She said Ms. Hargrave taught at Rene Rost Middle School, where she won a teacher of the year award in 2016.

“Deyshia’s very outspoken,” she said. “She’s a great teacher.”

Before the vote, Ms. Hargrave spoke when one of the officials at the board meeting invited comments from the audience.

“I have a serious issue with a superintendent or any person in a position of leadership getting any type of raise,” Ms. Hargrave said, standing next to her seat. “I feel like it is a slap in the face to all the teachers, cafeteria workers and any other support staff we have.”

She said class sizes were growing.

“We are doing the work, the students are doing the work,” Ms. Hargrave continued. “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.”

After the board voted and approved the contract with the raise, a member of the audience said, “This is not a democratic government then,” and others wondered aloud from their seats why public concerns were not heard. The assembly appeared to include teachers, and some people attended with children.

Ms. Hargrave raised her hand. Someone on the board said, “Yes, ma’am,” and she rose to speak again.

“Superintendent, how are you going to take a raise” when classes have grown from 21 to 29 students? she asked. “And we have not gotten raises. How are you going to take that money, because it is basically taking it out of the pockets of teachers.”

A man on the board pounded a gavel. “Stop right now,” he said, saying her question was not germane.

“I am saying how are you taking the raise when you are basically taking from the teachers and employees under you. When we have class sizes that are that big. This directly speaks to what you have just voted on,” Ms. Hargrave said.

Soon after, the marshal approached.

Mr. Funderburk told The Times that the marshal was technically a deputy city marshal employed under a contract with the Vermilion Parish School Board, which calls for him to serve as a “school resource officer.” The funding for his contract, Mr. Funderburk said, comes from the school board — and the deputy marshal would not have been at the meeting unless the school board had ordered him to be.

It was not clear whether the marshal acted on his own or was directed by a board member. Other board members did not respond to emails from The Times seeking comment; but Anthony Fontana, the president of the Vermilion Parish School Board, told KATC-TV that he supported the decision to remove the teacher.

It was not clear whether the deputy would be disciplined. A lawyer for the school board did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment late Tuesday.

Ms. LeBeouf said Ms. Hargrave’s arrest was a “disgrace.”

“I do believe in the First Amendment, and everyone should be able to go to a school board meeting and express how they feel,” she said.

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