A Louisiana teacher who was arrested at a school board meeting for asking why the district superintendent was being given a significant raise while teachers’ salaries were seeing no increase has spoken out about the humiliating experience she endured, and the underlying inequality that led to her arrest.
“I was seriously panicked. I’ve never been handcuffed in my life,” recalled middle school teacher Deyshia Hargrave in comments made to NBC News. “I’m pretty upset that no one stopped it from happening.”
Hargrave explained that the board appeared eager to silence her after she questioned superintendent Jerome Puyau’s $38,000 raise, which increased his yearly salary from $110,130 to $148,000. She noted that she and her fellow teachers, who now make less than a third of Puyau’s salary at an average of just $47,041 a year, had not been given a raise in about a decade.
“It just felt like a slap in the face to everyone I work with every day,” she said.
In video taken of the school board meeting, Hargrave can be seen willingly following a marshall who asked her to leave the room where the meeting was taking place. Both Hargrave and her fellow teachers were shocked, however, after the marshall forced her to the ground and handcuffed her before removing her from the building entirely and taking her to jail. She was booked for allegedly “resisting an officer” and “remaining on premises,” but the city prosecutor has declined to pursue the charges because the arrest was made by an office commissioned by the school board and not a city police officer.
Puyau, the superintendent, also spoke out about the incident, ABC News reported, as did school board president Anthony Fontana, both of whom defended the officer’s actions.
“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,” Fontana continued. “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.” Puyau added, “Our people know what to do, and when it happened, that person, that marshal, acted in what we asked him to do.”
“I teach fifth and sixth graders, so I wasn’t sure how they’d feel about it,” Hargrave told NBC News. Fortunately, she said, when she arrived in class the next day they showered her with love and support. The rest of the community, many of whom were unaware of the superintendent’s high pay and the teachers and other school staff’s stagnant wages, had also begun rallying to her side, she added.
“It’s sad that a woman has to be forcibly violently removed from a board meeting for people to start caring,” said Hargrave.
But sometimes, just one woman daring to speak up can make all the difference.
Watch Hargrave’s interview with NBC News below.