ABBEVILLE, La. — A Louisiana teacher ejected from a school board meeting and roughly handcuffed in a video-recorded arrest after she questioned her superintendent’s pay raise said she thinks a lawsuit is likely in the case.
Deyshia Hargrave declined, at first, to say with certainty whether she would file a lawsuit in the matter. “We’ll see how it goes,” she said when asked again. “But I clearly feel my First Amendment rights were violated, and I feel like, yeah, there will be a lawsuit filed for that.”
About 100 people chanting “Stand by Deyshia” and waving signs heralding free speech gathered in a light rain Thursday night to support Hargrave. Near tears at times, she thanked supporters who stood by her after the arrest and emphasized the need to speak out on important issues.
“I hope and pray my experience will empower you — my students, young women everywhere — to know that you have a voice,” Hargrave told the crowd. “Use it. Many, many women suffered tremendously and sacrificed greatly for us to have this voice. … And this is for the boys, too. You matter.”
Earlier, Hargrave told The Associated Press she believes Vermilion Parish School Board President Anthony Fontana should resign. She declined to suggest any discipline for Reggie Hilts, the deputy city marshal who handcuffed her on the hallway floor after she left the meeting and marched her out of the building.
“He needs training,” the middle school English teacher said. “Whether he needs to lose his job, I don’t know.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and her teachers union are investigating the case.
The turmoil followed the board’s 5-3 vote Monday night approving a new three-year contract raising Vermilion Schools Superintendent Jerome Puyau’s salary by roughly $30,000, to about $140,000 annually, with incentive targets that could add 3 percent a year.
Video of the meeting shows that Hargrave addressed the superintendent directly after raising her hand to speak and being recognized.
She questioned Puyau’s raise, given that teachers haven’t received an increase in 10 years, despite growing class sizes and other demands.
Fontana then declared that her comment wasn’t “germane” to the vote on the contract, and banged his gavel in an attempt to silence her. According to school board member Kibbie Pillette, Fontana then beckoned off-camera to the officer, who interrupted Hargrave while she was speaking and ordered her out.
“I’m going,” she said, making her way out. The officer followed her into the hallway, where moments later, a camera recorded her on the floor with her hands behind her back, being handcuffed and complaining that the officer had pushed her down.
Asked by the AP on Thursday who’s directly to blame for the incident, Hargrave said “Anthony Fontana.”
Fontana has not returned calls for an interview with the AP, but has defended his actions and that of the officer.
Hilts was accused along with another officer of slamming an ailing 62-year-old man’s head onto…