OUCH

School Teacher Arrested for Objecting to Superintendent’s $30,000 Raise

The Vermilion Parish, Louisiana school district has a history of financial troubles, so when its chief got a big pay bump, a teacher got angry. Then it got ugly.

YouTube

A Louisiana middle school teacher was handcuffed and arrested during a school board meeting Monday after objecting to a proposed renewal of the district superintendent’s contract that included a $30,000 raise.

A 12-minute video of the incident in which Deyshia Hargrave, an English/Language Arts teacher at Rene A. Rost middle school in Vermilion Parish, is violently escorted from the meeting has amassed over 2.5 million views on YouTube and caused a firestorm of controversy nationwide.

Teachers in the district, she says, have not received a permanent raise in 10 years. Superintendent Jerome Puyau did though, despite the school district’s history of financial troubles,

“I have a serious issue with a superintendent or any person in a position of leadership getting any type of raise,” says Hargrave in the video. “I feel like it is a slap in the face to all the teachers, cafeteria workers and any other support staff we have. We work very hard with very little to maintain the salaries that we have.”

She continued, explaining that class sizes have increased, along with the demand on local school teachers. “At the top? That’s not where kids learn. It’s in the classroom. And those teachers, like myself, are not getting a dime,” she said.

Still, Puyau’s new contract was approved, raising his salary to about $140,000.

Hargrave was then called on for comment again, before being told by the board’s president that what she was saying was not “germane to what was on the agenda.”

A deputy city marshal employed by the school board told her to leave, which, as can be seen on the now-viral video, Hargrave began to do. Moments later, she was pushed to the floor, put in handcuffs, and placed  in the back of a police car.

Ike Funderburk, Abbeville’s city attorney and prosecutor, told the New York Times that she was arrested for “remaining after having been forbidden” and “resisting an officer,” but that after review, charges would not be pressed. Despite this, Hargrave was booked into jail before making bail.

In an emotional interview, Puyau said that he, his family, and other school board members have received death threats over the incident. He told CBS News that he should have intervened in the arrest.

He simultaneously maintains, however, the propriety of his raise, explaining that he has not received one since assuming his position as superintendent five years ago. His new salary puts him at No. 32 out of 69 superintendents in Louisiana in terms of salary, according to USA Today.

Notably, the school district has weathered financial troubles in recent years.

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In April 2016, it had a deficit of about $3 million, according to local news station KATC. In an attempt to alleviate it at the time, Puyau spearheaded an effort to leave 16 teaching jobs unfilled. The board approved a reduced number of six.

Almost one year later, in March 2017, Vermillion Parish voters passed a property tax renewal to raise about $8 million for the school board to pay teacher salaries.

Additionally, an independent financial audit from this past fiscal year found that the district has reduced its outstanding debt by almost $400,000.

Despite this, Hargrave said that teachers in the district have not received permanent raises in a decade, twice as long as Puyau has held his title.

Before the March tax renewal was voted on, Hargrave even spoke to KATC and explained that, "some of our salary goes directly back to these students, not just to pay our bills. Personally, I buy extra things in my classroom so when a student doesn't have it, it's available."

In 2016 Puyau faced possible termination after some members of the board took issue with his leadership style.

In that same year, Deyshia Hargrave was given a “teacher of the year” award.

She has since spoken out, both on “Today,” and on YouTube, where she said that “by silencing my voice they’ve also taken away - or tried to take away - my First Amendment right to speak. And I’m appalled at this, and you should be, too.”