Teacher Arrested For Asking Why The Superintendent Is Receiving A Raise When School Employees Haven’t Gotten One In Years

Teacher Arrested For Asking Why The Superintendent Is Receiving A Raise When School Employees Haven’t Gotten One In Years

Louisianna teacher Deyshia Hargrave was booked into city jail after standing up during a school board public comments meeting to ask why the local superintendent was receiving a raise.

No charges will be filed against a Vermilion Parish teacher who was arrested at a school board meeting last night.

Ike Funderburk, Abbeville’s city attorney and prosecutor, said he has reviewed the video and won’t be prosecuting her.

“I have reviewed the video and I am not going to approve any charges against the teacher,” Funderburk said. “I talked with the attorney for the school board, and they do not wish to pursue any charges against the teacher.”

Board President Anthony Fontana says he thinks the whole thing was a “set up.”

“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,” said Fontana, who also is an attorney. “The whole issue, from day one, was that they were not going to give him a contract.”

Two board members, who have been at odds with Fontana over Puyau’s contract and other issues before the board, and even boycotted meetings last fall, told the AP that they think Hargrave’s treatment is related to the fact she’s female.

Women have several times been told to leave meetings, while men who speak out have not been removed, board member Laura LeBeouf, who voted against the superintendent’s contract at Monday’s meeting, 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.”

Board member Sara Duplechain, who also voted against the superintendent’s contract at the meeting, expressed similar sentiments.

“No reason for anyone to be treated this way. So far in 3 years, only women have been removed from board room meetings,” Sara Duplechain wrote in an emailed response to AP’s questions.

Duplechain called the police on Fontana last fall after the first meeting following the boycott, accusing him of yelling at her in the parking lot. No charges were filed by police.

Fontana said the teacher arrested after Monday’s meeting was not following the rules of board meeting procedure.

“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,” Fontana said. “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,” Fontana said. “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 ”

Fontana said he had to lock down the school board office Tuesday because of death threats. He said he had called police, the sheriff’s office and the FBI about the threats.

“I told my staff not to answer the phone unless they knew who it was. My staff was scared to death, because they got a call that a man said he was on his way to the school board office, making threats,” Fontana said.

The teacher’s attorney said he was meeting with her this evening, and she would have no statement on the situation until tomorrow.

Funderburk also said the marshal who arrested her is a school resource officer who is employed by the school board and he “was not acting in any official capacity on behalf of the city of Abbeville.”

We’ve reached out to the Marshals’ Office for comment, but none of our calls or requests have been returned. We asked if there was any change in the officer’s employment status and were told there was not.

The officer has been at board meetings for the past several months, since board members requested security for each meeting.

The teacher was booked into jail last night, even though the superintendent told KATC shortly after the meeting that he had called to inform police that the system didn’t want any charges pressed.

Records indicate Deyshia Hargrave was booked into the city jail with remaining after being forbidden and resisting an officer. The cooperation of the school system would not be required to arrest her on either of those charges; the officer could arrest her on his complaint.

Superintendent Jerome Puyau told KATC Monday night that he called to ensure that police knew the system was not pressing charges against Hargrave, but she was booked anyway, records show. She has since bonded out. City Prosecutor Ike Funderburk told KATC that the School System officials had called him this morning to reiterate that the system wasn’t interested in pursuing charges.

At Monday’s meeting, the board approved a renewal of Puyau’s contract, which included the first raise he has received since he was hired for the job in 2013. His salary increased from $110,190 to $140,188. During Puyau’s tenure as superintendent, the district’s state ranking has improved from a B to an A. The A was awarded in 2015 and the district continues to be graded an A. In 2017, 12 of the district’s schools were ranked as A, up from 3 when he took over in 2013.

Hargrave, an English language arts teacher at Rene Rost Middle School in Kaplan, addressed the board during the public comments portion of the meeting to discuss teacher salaries and pay raises.  After Hargrave posed several questions, board president Anthony Fontana ruled Hargrave out of order, warning her that the public comment section was not for a question-and-answer session.

Hargrave was called upon a second time for comment.  After posing another question, and while Puyau was talking to her, an Abbeville city marshal on duty at the meeting escorted Hargrave out of the meeting. Handcuffs were later placed on Hargrave in the hallway, as she was removed from the building.

In an interview Tuesday, Vermilion Parish School Board President Anthony Fontana stated that he supports the deputy marshal’s decision to remove the teacher from last night’s school board meeting.

The deputy marshal is a school resource officer who works in Vermilion Parish schools. The Abbeville Police Department has received so many calls about the case they issued a statement pointing out that it has nothing to do with them:

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 Abbeville Police Department has received numerous emails and phone calls about the arrest but all questions concerning this incident should be made to the Vermilion Parish School Board.

The Louisiana Association of Educators who is representing Hargrave released the following statement on the incident denouncing the treatment Hargrave experienced.

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.

Below is the twitter message issued today expressing the same sentiments from LAE. Beyond these statements, LAE says they are refraining from making any further statements as the investigation continues.

The ACLU of Louisiana has also released a statement on the Vermilion Parish teachers arrest. The organization says the actions of the officer as “unacceptable and raise serious constitutional concerns”. A press release states that they are also investigating the incident.

Deyshia Hargrave’s expulsion from a public meeting and subsequent arrest are unacceptable and raise serious constitutional concerns. The Constitution prohibits the government from punishing or retaliating against people for expressing their views, and the fact that a schoolteacher was arrested at a public meeting of the school board is especially troubling.

The ACLU of Louisiana will continue to investigate this incident and defend the constitutional rights of all Louisianans. We urge anyone whose rights have been violated to contact us.

It is unclear if the marshal was acting on his own accord or on the orders of board members. KATC was at the meeting when the incident occurred, the video FULL VIDEO is below.

One reply on “Teacher Arrested For Asking Why The Superintendent Is Receiving A Raise When School Employees Haven’t Gotten One In Years”

You have the right to free speech
As long as
You’re not dumb enough to actually try it

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