Teacher speaks out after arrest for criticizing boss' raise

A Louisiana teacher who was arrested at a school board meeting after criticizing her superintendent’s pay raise said she was stunned by her treatment and expects an apology.

“I’m pretty upset that no one stopped it from happening,” Deyshia Hargrave, in an interview that aired on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday, said of her forceful removal from Monday’s Vermilion Parish School Board meeting. She was handcuffed outside the meeting room and booked on charges that included resisting an officer.

“I’m hoping for teachers, people outside of education, to have a voice,” said Hargrave, who teaches middle school language arts. “Show up. You don’t have to say anything, just show up. Just do something.”

She added: “It’s sad that a woman has to be forcibly, violently removed from a board meeting for people to start caring.”

Hargrave found herself in hot water during Monday’s meeting when, during a public comment period, she questioned a new contract for Superintendent Jerome Puyau that reportedly gave him a $38,000 pay raise and a car. 

Video taken during the meeting shows Hargrave calling the raise a “slap in the face” to educators who haven’t seen a raise in nearly a decade.

“We’re doing the work, the students are doing the work,” Hargrave told the school board. “At the top, that’s not where kids learn. It’s in the classrooms. And those teachers, like myself, are not getting a dime from that, and that is unspeakable.”

Board President Anthony Fontana told Hargrave her comments were irrelevant to the meeting agenda. A uniformed city marshal then ushered her from the room and handcuffed her.

Puyau, speaking to NBC News in an interview that aired Wednesday night, said he deserved a raise because the school district ranked 6th in performance in Louisiana, though his pay ranked 57th.

“You can always use more money in the classroom, but when is a good time for a superintendent to get a raise?” Puyau asked. He acknowledged “there things that we could have done differently,” but believes “a person has to follow the rules.”

Puyau hasn’t responded to HuffPost’s repeated requests for comment.

Nor has he addressed Hargrave, who said Thursday that she was “definitely” owed an apology. 

You can always use more money in the classroom but when is a good time for a superintendent to get a raise?”Superintendent Jerome Puyau

The meeting video shows Puyau was answering Hargrave’s comment when the officer appeared and ordered her to leave. 

Hargrave was charged with resisting an officer and remaining on premises after being forbidden. Abbeville city prosecutor Ike Funderburk told HuffPost on Wednesday he will not press the charges in court, saying, “I did not see where she broke a law.”

Puyau, fighting back tears, told NBC News that backlash over video of Hargrave’s arrest has led to death threats against him and his family.

“My sisters, my family, were all educators. For those threats against them, more people were hurt. It is not fair to our families. Anyone’s families. Anyone in Vermillion Parish,” Puyau said.

Fontana told NBC News he and his staff have also received threats.

Still, the school board president continued to defend the arrest and removal of the teacher.

“Everybody wants to side on the poor little woman who got thrown out,” Fontana told Baton Rouge station WAFB. “Well, she made a choice. She could have walked out and nothing would have happened.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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