Deyshia Hargrave, the 32-year-old Louisiana teacher who was arrested Monday night at a Vermilion Parish school board meeting after speaking out about a pay raise for the district’s superintendent, has talked publicly about the incident for the first time.
Hargrave was arrested by Abbeville city marshal Reggie Hilts, who works as a school resource officer, after she was ordered removed from the meeting by board president Anthony Fontana. Hargrave was speaking to superintendent Jerome Puyau at the time about the $38,000 raise that was approved for him by the board that night. Hargrave had earlier spoken against the raise, saying that it was not fair that he was getting such a large pay increase while the district’s teacher haven’t seen a raise in years. You can watch the video of the meeting and incident here.
Hargrave spoke out in a video posted by the Louisiana Association of Educators.
“We #standbydeyshia! Join teachers, education support professionals, parents, students, and public education supporters from around our state in saying: Every educator must be able to speak out without fear or retaliation on the issues that matter to educators, their students, and their communities,” the LAE wrote. The group is planning a rally at Magdalen Square in Abbeville, Louisiana, on Thursday at 3:45 p.m.
Hargrave is an English Language Arts teacher for 5th and 6th grade students at Rene Rost Middle School in Kaplan, Louisiana. She was the school’s “teacher of the year” in 2016.
“I love my job,” Hargrave said in the video posted Wednesday night, two days after the incident. “I attended a school board meeting where I planned to here concerns or watch a vote take place about the superintendent’s contract. And my voice was silence during audience concerns for the superintendent. By silencing my voice, they’ve also taken away, or tried to take away, my First Amendment rights, to speak and I’m appalled at this and you should be too.”
It is not clear if Hargrave is planning legal action. She is being represented by an attorney from the Louisiana Association of Educators and the ACLU of Louisiana is also investigating. The city prosecutor in Abbeville, said he will not prosecute Hargrave, who was booked into the city jail on charges of remaining after being forbidden and resisting arrest Monday night.
“I was always taught that what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong and when you see something, you should say it’s wrong even though it doesn’t involve you,” Hargrave said in the video. “This particular issue directly involved me, directly involved my students, my fellow educators and support staff, cafeteria workers, citizens outside of the school system, so I chose to speak out. I’m hoping that you choose to speak out after seeing what happened to me and you don’t let it become an intimidation to you. You let it be your strength, because it’s slowly becoming mine.”
Hargrave said when she went back to school, “I saw my children’s faces and they had so much care and so much love and so much gratitude for what I did and so did their parents. I’d like to thank my community, my students, my fellow co-workers and educators. It was a huge deal that you not only messaged me, you wore black in support of me, you shared things on social media, you got vocal, and that is the most important thing, so please don’t let the conversation end with me. Please go to your local school board meetings, speak out, be vocal, I continue to spread the word across our state, across our country in anyway I can to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Hargrave said she can’t do it alone.
“So join me in doing that. Use your First Amendment rights, exercise your right to gather, to speak, a lot of people who came before you worked really hard to ensure that was there for you.
The LAE started a “Stand by Deyshia” campaign to help others show their support for her.
Hargrave also gave an interview to NBC News.
“I just kept thinking, ‘This is really happening. He’s really doing this,'” she told NBC News in an exclusive interview from her home. “It’s sad that a woman has to be forcibly, violently removed from a board meeting for people to start caring.”
Hargrave told NBC News she is not sure why the situation escalated.
“I feel like I was being more passionate at previous meetings than I was at this one,” Hargrave said, adding that she didn’t touch the officer. She said she was worried what her students would think when they saw the viral video.
“And the realization that my students were going to see the video and I had to go to work the next day,” And I teach fifth and sixth graders so I wasn’t sure how they would feel about it,” she told NBC News. “They’re fine, so I’m fine.”
Hargrave said she would like an apology from the marshal and the superintendent.
“He’s our leader,” she said He’s the top person in this school board and ultimately, he was speaking and he was interrupted like I was. He should’ve stopped that,” she told NBC News.
Hargrave told NBC News, “I’m hoping for teachers, people outside of education, to have a voice. Show up. You don’t have to say anything, just show up. Just do something.”
You can read more about the arresting officer, Reggie Hilts, here:
And you can read about Vermilion Parish school board president Anthony Fontana here: