A school resource officer has the support of his employer after he arrested a Louisiana teacher during a school board meeting Monday night after she spoke out about a pay raise for the district’s superintendent. Video of the incident quickly went viral and has sparked outrage worldwide.
Reggie Hilts, a 31-year-old sergeant with the Abbeville City Marhsal’s office, has not seen a change in his employment status after the arrest of Vermilion Parish teacher Deyshia Hargrave, KATC-TV reports.
Hilts is a deputy city marshal, but works as a school resource officer through a contract between Abbeville and the school district, according to the New York Times. He is paid by the school district and would not have been at the meeting if the school board hadn’t requested him to be there, Abbeville city attorney Ike Funderburk told The Times.
School Board President Anthony Fontana told KLFY-TV, “She was interrupting the board meeting. She wouldn’t allow that to happen in a classroom, and now she’s going to pull that stunt. A board member was getting ready to speak when she cut into him. That’s when the officer acted. I think he acted properly.”
Hargrave, a 32-year-old educator who was the “Teacher of the Year” at Rene Rost Middle School in Kaplan in 2016, was taken out of the school board meeting Monday night in handcuffs after questioning Fontana, the school board and superintendent Jerome Puyau about the $38,000 pay increase the board approved for Puyau.
While officials have stood by Hilts, many have called for him to be fired. Hilts has not commented about the incident and the city marshal’s office hasn’t issued a statement.
The Abbeville Police Department said in a statement, “In response to the numerous requests for the teacher’s booking information, the Abbeville Police Department is cooperating as directed by law. The Abbeville Police Department did not arrest the teacher. Due to the location of her arrest and the arresting agency’s jurisdiction, which includes the city limits of Abbeville, she was booked in and bonded from the local police department.”
Here’s what you need to know about Hilts and the incident:
1. Hilts Was Sued by a Suspect Who Said He & Other Officer Slammed Him Head First Into the Concrete, Cutting His Head & Fracturing His Ribs
Reggie Hilts is a sergeant with the Abbeville City Marshal’s office, according to his Linkedin profile. He has worked for the city marshal’s office since 2012. It is not clear if he has been a school resource officer during that entire time. Before working in Abbeville, he was a police officer with the Breaux Bridge Police Department from April 2010 to April 2011. He has also worked as an officer in Scott, Louisiana.
Reggie Hilts was sued for civil rights violations, including using excessive force, after a 2011 incident that occurred while he was working for the city of Scott’s police department, according to court documents.
Bruce Falcon said in the lawsuit, filed in the Western District of Louisiana federal court, that he was arrested by Hilts and another Scott officer, Mark Venable, on September 21, 2011. Falcon, who was 62 at the time, went to a property owned by his wife in Scott to tell a lawn crew who was mowing the property to stop. Falcon’s wife was in a dispute with the city at the time, according to the lawsuit. Venable then came to the scene and said that the lawn mower had the right to cut the lawn.
You can read the full civil complaint below:
According to the suit, Hilts then arrived, and “as Mr. Falcon was trying to explain to the officers that they were having the grass cut on the wrong lot, both officers, without any probable cause whatsoever to do so and without an arrest warrant, grabbed Mr. Falcon and shoved him up against the door of the building next to which they were standing.”
Falcon’s attorneys wrote in the complaint that the officers, “then slammed Mr. Falcon’s head against the concrete slab on which they were standing, which caused a laceration on the top/front of Mr. Falcon’s head which bled profusely and required 6 staples to close.”
Falcon said he was also left with fractures to his lateral, left, fourth rib and with bruises and abrasions to his face, arm and shoulders.
After being slammed down, Falcon said he was handcuffed behind his back.
“Because Mr. Falcon was in great pain, bleeding and scared, he asked the officers to call for an ambulance, which one of them did,” the complaint states. “The officers required that Mr. Falcon be transported to Southwest Medical Center in handcuffs.”
Falcon said in the lawsuit that the incident also left him with ongoing neck pain and headaches.
Falcon said in the lawsuit he is 5 foot 8 inches tall, weighing 175 pounds and suffers from chronic cirrhosis of the liver, which was caused by hepatitis C, and caused his spleen to enlarge. Falcon said his blood was “thin” and he is a “free bleeder,” who had been warned by his doctors to be careful about being cut or bruised because he could bleed to death.
The case was dismissed in 2016, according to federal court records. It is not clear why the case was dismissed. The two parties had been trying to reach a settlement, according to court documents. Falcon could not be reached for comment. His attorney and an attorney that represented Hilts also did not immediately return requests for comment.
Hilts, Venable and the city of Scott denied all the accusations made against them.
2. Hilts Is Also a Pastor & a Singer
While working for the school district, Hilts has produced an annual student Black History Month performance, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” according to KATC-TV.
It is, “about a young man struggling to find his way in life: William Tyrone Johnson, better known as Willie to his family and friends. Willie is trying to find his way in life but he has so many different influences, at times he feels that the wrong thing is the right thing. This is his story about his life obstacles and challenges in his pursuit of freedom.”
Hilts is also a singer and a pastor at The Sanctuary of Worship, according to its website. He grew up in Duson, Louisiana, according to the church’s website:
He received the gift of the Holy Ghost and was baptized in Jesus name at the young age of 7. In 2010, Pastor Reggie and his wife Rebecca were called by God into the ministry. In 2011, he was then licensed under the leadership of Bishop Derald Weber, The Pentecostals of Lafayette(TPOL).
While at TPOL, Pastor Reggie served in a host of ministries: Youth Ministry, Children’s Ministry, Creative Worship Team, Nursing Home Ministry, Music Ministry, Prison Ministry Director, and most recent Young Marrieds 30-39 Link Group Leader.
In August of 2017, the Lord took the ministry of Pastor Reggie to the next level. After much prayer and fasting, Pastor Reggie and Sis. Hilts answered the call to serve as pastors of the Sanctuary of Worship.
On his music website, Hilts says, “My name is Reginald “Reggie” Hilts and I have been singing since the early age of 13 years old. Around the age of 17, I decided to incorporate my love for singing and music together so I started teaching myself to play the keyboard. With the help of God, I am now able to play and sing, in which I try to do skillfully. (Psalms 33:3 states, “Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.”).”
A friend came to Hilts’ defense on Facebook on Tuesday.
“Today is National Law enforcement appreciation day! I’d like to say that I love and appreciate our dear friend Reggie Hilts!! Thanks for your sacrifice and service to the state of Louisiana!! May the Lord continue to guide your every footstep and keep His hedge of protection upon you!!! Thanks for all you do!!!!” the friend wrote.
After receiving several negative comments, the friend wrote:
Well I didn’t post this for your unnecessary comments!! Just as the Lord said when they wanted to stone the woman for her sins, let the one of you that have never done wrong or sinned throw the first stone!! Unless you know the whole story then your comment is not needed. As you see in all the videos and yes I have seen them they never show what actually happened when she was walking out of the door way to the meeting room, nor does it show how she actually ended up on the floor, there was no camera, I know that you can hear her turning to apologize to the public but she was asked to stop and leave. I’m all for strong women and women standing their ground! I feel that she was correct to question and do her job as a parent and teacher to get what teachers deserve. She was doing her job. Just as I feel that Reggie Hilts was doing his job, he was asked to escort her out of the room. She already started to resist when she said “sir, do not!” So as stated before unless you all are free of sin and/or mistakes then by all means throw the first stone! Thanks for being adults about this!!
One person wrote in response, “I support law enforcement but not this guy. How are you going to push a woman to the ground for speaking her mind? The lady was leaving. Kaplan and Abbeville have a lot of corruption in their PDs. Good luck with your upcoming lawsuit.”
Another said, “I agree completely that he mishandled the situation and used excessive force when it wasn’t necessary. More people in power trying to suppress our rights to freedom of speech.”
3. Video Shows Hilts Pushing Hargrave Into a Wall, Handcuffing Her & Dragging Her Out of the Building as She Screams ‘What Are You Doing?’
Deyshia Hargrave stood up to speak out against a controversial 3-year contract extension for Vermilion Parish Superintendent Jerome Puyau during the public comment period prior to the board’s vote at Monday night’s meeting. The school board has been trying to extend Puyau’s contract for several months and has faced opposition from teachers and others in the community, according to Vermilion Today.
“I have a serious issue with a superintendent or any person in a position of leadership getting any type of raise. I feel that it’s a slap in the face to all the teachers, cafeteria workers and any other support staff. We work very hard with very little to maintain the salaries that we have,” Hargrave told the board, a video posted to YouTube by Chris Rosa shows. You can watch the full video above. “As I’ve been teaching the last few years I’ve seen class sizes grow enormously so, I don’t care if the performance targets are met, you’re making our job even more difficult and we are jumping through hoops and we’re continuously, we’re meeting those goals, we’re meeting those goals, while someone in that position of leadership is getting a raise.”
After the vote was held, Hargrave again addressed the board, this time during a period for “audience concerns for the superintendent.”
Hargrave, addressing the superintendent said, “how are you going to take a raise when … when I first started teaching ELA there were like 20, 21 kids in a class and now there’s 29 kids in a class that we are now having and we have not got raises. How are you going to take that money, because it’s basically taking out of the pockets teachers.”
Fontana then interrupted Hargrave, banging his gavel and saying, “stop right now, that’s not germane to what’s on the agenda.” The crowd erupted with, “yes it is.” Fontana told Hargrave and the audience that the raise issue was not part of the discussion of the superintendent’s contract.
“How are you taking the raise when you’re basically taking from the teachers and employees under you, when we have class sizes that are that big. This directly speaks to what you’ve just voted on,” Hargrave told Fontana.
At that point, Puyau begins speaking to Hargrave, but the Abbeville city marshal, Reggie Hilts, who was working security at the meeting can be seen walking toward her, apparently after Fontana motioned for her to be removed.
A video recorded by KATC-TV, which you can watch above, shows what happened as Hargrave was escorted out of the meeting. The Abbeville city marshal, Reggie Hilts, can be seen on video telling Hargrave to leave, pointing toward the door, while someone in the audience says, “he’s addressing her,” referencing the superintendent, who at that point stopped talking.
“Take your stuff and go,” Hilts says to Hargrave. She continues to speak to the board and the marshal says to her, “You’re going to leave or I’m going to remove you.”
Hilts then grabs Hargrave by the arm and she says to him, “Sir, do not,” before picking up her purse and walking toward the door. Someone in the crowd says, “this is the most disgraceful and distasteful thing I’ve ever seen.”
The video shows Hargrave and other members of the crowd asking why the school board president won’t let the superintendent answer Hargrave’s question. It then cuts to Hargrave in the hallway, being pushed to the ground by Hilts and put into handcuffs as she yells, “what are you doing, what are you doing!”
The marshal pulls Hargrave up to her feet and drags her, while handcuffed, down the hall as she screams, “are you kidding me?” Hilts says, “stop resisting,” and she responds, “I am not, you just pushed me to the floor. Sir, hold on, I am way smaller than you. Are you kidding me?” she says as the marshal leads her outside.
3. Hilts Threatened to Have Another Person Arrested for ‘Intimidation’ While Waiting for Hargrave to Be Taken to Jail
You can watch another angle of the arrest in the video posted by Chris Rosa above. Someone in the crowd can be heard saying, “she’s just put her in handcuffs,” before the chaotic scene in the hallway unfolds to the shock of the crowd.
Rosa’s video shows Hargrave being taken outside as several other members of the crowd follow. Hargrave can be seen talking to Hilts, and expressing shock that she si being arrested for “standing in a hallway.”
Hilts tells her, “I gave you many lawful orders to leave.” Hargrave tells him, “that’s exactly what I was doing,” and he says, “you did not, you did not.”
Hargrave tells him, “I was walking out of the hallway, asking you a question. … You don’t need backup, I’m 5-feet tall, put me in the car if you’re going to put me in the car.”
Another person says they are going to call someone to tell them about the arrest, and the marshal threatens to have that person arrested.
“Somebody else about to get arrested, public intimidation,” Hilts says.
The video ends with Hargrave being put into a police SUV and taken to jail. She was booked on the charges of remaining after being forbidden and resisting an officer, KATC-TV reports.
4. The School Board President Defended Hilts, Saying He Was Doing His Job by Maintaining the Order of the Meeting
Anthony Fontana, the school board president, said officials handled the situation properly.
He told KATC-TV, “(Hilts) did exactly what he was hired to do. He followed the procedures completely. She’s the one who made the choices that got her arrested.”
Fontana said he has requested security for board meetings over the past several months and Reggie Hilts, who is a city marshal employed by the school board as a school resource officer, has been at the past few meetings.
Fontana told KATC-TV that he thinks it was a set up.
“The other four board members, now three, have been committed to getting rid of the superintendent. No matter how good the policy might be, they would be against it to cast disfavor on the superintendent to prevent him from getting a contract,” Fontana told the news station. “The whole issue, from day one, was that they were not going to give him a contract.”
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. 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. He went over there to settle it down. He couldn’t settle it down. She’s the one who made the choice to continue speaking. 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.
He told NBC News he stands by the marshal, despite not seeing what led to the teacher being handcuffed.
In an interview with KLFY-TV he said, “She was interrupting the board meeting. She wouldn’t allow that to happen in a classroom, and now she’s going to pull that stunt. A board member was getting ready to speak when she cut into him. That’s when the officer acted. I think he acted properly.”
“His job is to make sure that we have orderly board meetings. He knows what our policy is and he knows how to handle it,” he said.
Another school board member, Laura LeBeouf, telling NBC News she was “very appalled” by the incident.
“I personally apologize for the Vermilion Parish School Board. This is a sad day for Vermilion Parish. I don’t think it needed to come to the extreme that it came to,” she told NBC News.
At the end of Monday night’s school board meeting, one of the board’s members, LeBeouf, who has clashed with Fontana, addressed the incident.
“What happened here tonight shows the way that females are treated in Vermilion Parish,” LeBeouf said, KATC reports. Someone in the crowd can then be heard saying, “terrible, terrible, terrible.”
LeBeouf added, “I have never seen a man removed from this room. I have never.”
Another board member, Sara Duplechain, told The Associated Press, “No reason for anyone to be treated this way. So far in 3 years, only women have been removed from board room meetings.”
Ike Funderburk, the Abbeville city attorney, said Reggie Hilts “was not acting in any official capacity on behalf of the city of Abbeville,” KATC-TV reports.
Funderburk added, “I have reviewed the video and I am not going to approve any charges against the teacher. I talked with the attorney for the school board, and they do not wish to pursue any charges against the teacher.”
It is not clear if Hilts’ actions are under investigation. According to KLFY-TV, Hargrave is considering her legal options and some have encouraged her online to pursue a civil rights case.
Debbie Meaux, the president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said in a statement to Heavy that they were notified of the incident shortly after it occurred and their attorney, Brian Blackwell, is working with Hargrave, who is a member of the association.
“As an organization that advocates for the dedicated school employees of Louisiana, we firmly denounce the mistreatment of Ms. Hargrave, a loving parent and dedicated teacher serving the students of Vermilion Parish. It is every citizen’s right to speak up for their beliefs. Any action that infringes upon this right is unlawful and unacceptable,” Meaux said in the statement. “We will continue to support the right of every single school employee to take an interest in, and ultimately stand up for, the best interests of their schools and their students.”
The ACLU of Louisiana also spoke out against the arrest.
“Deyshia Hargrave’s expulsion from a public meeting and subsequent arrest are unacceptable and raise serious constitutional concerns,” the ACLU said in a statement. “The Constitution prohibits the government from punishing or retaliating against people for expressing their views, and the fact that a schoolteacher was arrested at a public meeting of the school board is especially troubling. The ACLU of Louisiana will continue to investigate this incident and defend the constitutional rights of all Louisianans. We urge anyone whose rights have been violated to contact us.”