A Louisiana police department and school board rushed to provide explanations after an English teacher was removed from a school board meeting in handcuffs.
Deyshia Hargrave, an English language arts teacher at Rene Rost Middle Schools in Vermilion Parish, and others were attending what appeared to be a heated school board meeting at the time of the incident. Hargrave attempted to ask how the superintendent, Jerome Puyau, was able to get a raise when the teachers hadn’t received one in years. She was ruled out of order after trying to ask her question twice, once during the public comments section and again when she was called on by the board.
A city marshal directed Hargrave out of the room into the hall, where he then pulled her to the floor while handcuffing her. She was taken out of the building, where she was later booked and bonded.
KLFY shared a statement from the Abbeville Police Department regarding the incident, who said they were not the authority responsible for her arrest:
In response to the numerous requests for the teacher’s booking information, the Abbeville Police Department is cooperating as directed by law. The Abbeville Police Department did not arrest the teacher. Due to the location of her arrest and the arresting agency’s jurisdiction, which includes the city limits of Abbeville, she was booked in and bonded from the local police department.
The police department reportedly directed all questions to the school board.
The board has also come under fire for the issue. Board President Anthony Fontana, who told Hargrave that she was out of order, insinuated that the entire incident was a “set up” designed to make the board look bad.
“The other four board members, now three, have been committed to getting rid of the superintendent. No matter how good the policy might be, they would be against it to cast disfavor on the superintendent to prevent him from getting a contract,” he said, per KATC. “The whole issue, from day one, was that they were not going to give him a contract.”
Other board members disagree, and they shed light on a major rift in the group.
Board member Laura LeBeouf stated that women have been removed in the past, but the same treatment was not extended to men who spoke out during meetings. She and board member Sara Duplechain voted against Puyau’s contract. Like LeBeouf, Duplechain noted that the only people to be removed from the board meetings were women.
“No reason for anyone to be treated this way. So far in three years, only women have been removed from board room meetings,” Duplechain said.
“When she realized she had to get out, she picked up her purse and walked out,” LeBeouf observed. “Women in this parish are not getting the same treatment.”
Fontana argued that like a teacher dismissing a student from class, the board had a right to kick people out for behavior:
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 went over there to settle it down. He couldn’t settle it down. She’s the one who made the choice to continue speaking. He was taking her out. He wasn’t arresting her. He was escorting her out, telling her don’t come back tonight. 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.
Ike Funderburk, Abbeville’s city attorney and prosecutor, explained that the city marshal who removed Hargrave is a school resource officer employed by the school board. He also said that he spoke with the school board and announced that there was no intention of pressing charges against the teacher.
A video of the incident, posted by KATC, can be seen below.