The Vermilion Parish School Board violated the state’s Open Meeting Law in January when it forcibly removed a teacher from a meeting after she objected to a pay raise for the superintendent, a state district court judge has ruled.
Judge David M. Smith with the 15th Judicial District Court in Crowley also nullified the action taken at that Jan. 8 special meeting, the granting of a roughly $30,000 pay raise to Schools Superintendent Jerome Puyau.
Middle school English teacher Deyshia Hargrave was escorted out of the meeting room in Abbeville and handcuffed on the hallway floor. A video of the incident sparked public outrage, and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry subsequently sued the School Board.
Louisiana's attorney general sued a local school board Thursday over a meeting disrupted by the video-recorded arrest of a teacher being rough…
The judge ruled that the School Board wrongly silenced Hargrave and that the teacher was not being “willfully disruptive,” the legal threshold for removing someone from a public meeting in Louisiana.
“Ms. Hargrave addressed the board respectfully,” Smith said in his ruling. “She was not loud or disruptive.”
Smith also ordered the board from now on to “strictly adhere” to both the state Open Meetings Law and its own policy on public comments.
The ruling was handed down Thursday. The Vermilion Parish Association of Educators, which has objected to what happened to Hargrave, who is a member of the teachers union, issued a statement Saturday afternoon celebrating the ruling.
Union President Suzanne Breaux said she hopes the ruling “puts to an end once and for all the school board’s granting of a new contract to the superintendent under questionable circumstances.”
Hargrave has said the incident violated her First Amendment right to free speech.
"And I'm appalled at this, and you should be too," she said in a video posted on the Louisiana Association of Educators' Facebook page in January.
The Vermilion Parish teacher who was arrested after she spoke out about teacher pay at a school board meeting says she hopes the ordeal prompt…
The judge ordered the School Board to pay “reasonable” attorneys fees and expense that the Vermilion Parish Association of Educators incurred in assisting with the litigation.
Landry's suit argued that the school board conducted that Jan. 8 meeting "in an atmosphere that was hostile toward and contemptuous of" parish residents who attended it.
In his ruling, Smith found that School Board President Anthony Fontana, who has since resigned from the board, was out of line cutting off Hargrave in the first place.
“Her comments were mostly certainly germane to the agenda item,” the judge ruled.
KATC-TV quoted Puyau’s lawyer, Lane Roy, as saying the ruling is appealable, an indication that an appeal is under consideration.