Middle-school teacher Deyshia Hargrave probably gave the lesson of her life on Monday when she rose during a Vermilion Parish School Board meeting to ask why the system’s superintendent was getting a hefty raise while rank-and-file educators got nothing.
What followed was a crash course in the abuse of civil liberties, as a law enforcement officer arrested Hargrave for speaking her mind. Thousands of viewers worldwide who’ve now seen a video of Hargrave’s arrest can be forgiven if they confuse Acadiana with Argentina.
After board members voted to boost Superintendent Jerome Puyau’s pay by nearly $30,000, Board President Anthony Fontana recognized Hargrave to speak during a public comment period on the vote. When Hargrave asked why Puyau would accept a big raise while local teacher pay remained flat, Fontana told her that her question wasn’t relevant to the board’s action — which, by any reasonable standard, it was.
But while Puyau was attempting to address Hargrave, an officer with the Abbeville City Marshal’s Office ejected her from the meeting, inexplicably arresting her even after she appeared to be leaving on her own. A video of the physical struggle as a stunned Hargrave challenged the officer’s behavior has gone viral, resurrecting Louisiana’s global brand as a banana republic.
Boosters trying to lure business to the state are no doubt shaking their heads.
The arrest of a teacher who had just been kicked out of a Vermilion Parish School Board meeting Monday after criticizing a vote to give the su…
Abbeville City Attorney and prosecutor Ike Funderburk told an area TV station that he doesn’t plan to pursue charges against Hargrave, and that the school board attorney doesn’t want to pursue charges, either.
We hope that decision from the board’s legal adviser suggests that the board understands the mess on its hands. At least two board members have publicly criticized what happened at Monday’s meeting.
Hargrave should have been allowed to speak during the meeting, and it’s mystifying that a law enforcement officer would have arrested her when she appeared to be leaving the meeting, anyway. The incident should be investigated, and if no obvious rationale for the officer’s actions emerge, he should be disciplined.
As the controversy continued to unfold this week, the School Board offices were temporarily locked down, reportedly because of death threats to board officials that arrived from around the world. Such death threats, which we condemn, underscore a deep disregard for civic decency — a muddle that the moral clarity of American democracy, at its best, is designed to answer. But we can't hope to succeed against tyrants when we acquiesce to authoritarian thuggery within our own halls of government. That's why the sight of school board members and their superintendent sitting passively as their presiding officer and a lawman needlessly silenced a citizen — a spectacle clearly caught on video — is so disheartening.
As stewards of education, members of the Vermilion Parish School Board oversee schools where, supposedly, students are learning about the value of asking questions.
Deyshia Hargrave was arrested for asking one on Monday. What lesson will students learn from that?