Outrage over teacher's arrest leads to death threats for superintendent
Posted January 11, 2018 9:11 a.m. EST
Updated January 11, 2018 6:06 p.m. EST
(CNN) — A Louisiana superintendent says he's received death threats after a teacher who criticized his proposed raise was sent to jail.
But Vermillion Parish Superintendent Jerome Puyau said he stands by the city marshal who removed the teacher from the public comment session of a school board meeting, CNN affiliate KATC reported.
"Our people know what to do, and when it happened, that person ... that marshal acted in what we ask him to do," Puyau told KATC.
Video of teacher Deyshia Hargrave getting handcuffed and arrested made international headlines Wednesday.
Hargrave was called upon to speak during the public comment part of the school board meeting when she started criticizing the superintendent's proposed raise -- from $110,190 to $140,188.
"You're making our job even more difficult," Hargrave told the school board, according to video from KATC.
"A superintendent or any person in a position of leadership getting any type of raise, I feel like it's a slap in the face to all the teachers, cafeteria workers, and any other support staff we have."
Hargrave said teachers had not received a raise in years.
Public records show base salaries for Vermillion Parish teachers last year ranged from $39,458 to $58,658. The superintendent's $30,000 raise is more than half of most teachers' salaries.
As Hargrave continued sharing her concerns, a city marshal hired by the school district removed her from the meeting.
'I am way smaller than you!'
The video shows Hargrave getting handcuffed on the floor of a hallway.
"What are you doing?" she screams at the marshal.
"Stop resisting," he says.
"I'm am not! You just pushed me to the floor!" Hargrave yells as she's forcibly led out of the building. "I am way smaller than you!"
Hargrave was booked into the nearby Abbeville jail, accused of one count of resisting an officer and one count of remaining after being prohibited. She bonded out soon afterward, Abbeville police said.
City attorney and prosecutor Ike Funderburk told KATC no charges will be pursued against the teacher.
'Poor little woman'
Hargrave's ejection stoked a debate over gender equality, which intensified after school board president Tony Fontana called her a "poor little woman."
"This is not about the board. It's about the teacher, and everybody wants to side on the poor little woman who got thrown out," Fontana told CNN affiliate WAFB. "Well she made a choice. She could have walked out and nothing would have happened."
Not all board members agree with Fontana. School board member Laura LeBeouf expressed dismay over how the teacher was treated.
"What happened here tonight -- the way that females are treated in Vermilion Parish ... I have never seen a man removed from this room," LeBeouf said during the meeting.
Fontana later fired back at his fellow school board member.
"The board member on the other side forgot that we banned the husband of one of the board members from coming back on board property because of acting out in an incident," Fontana told KATC.
"So all this stuff about 'this is a woman's issue' is BS."
Superintendent on death threats: 'Stay away'
In the end, the school board approved Puyau's raise to $140,188 -- a salary boost of 27%.
But as video of Hargrave's arrest spread around the world, the superintendent said he and his family have received death threats.
Puyau has not responded to CNN's requests for comment. But in an interview with KATC, he implored the those making threats to stop.
"Leave our community out, and our schools, and stay away," he said.
Union president: Hargrave is a 'heroine'
After bonding out of jail, Hargrave gave a video statement denouncing her treatment and thanking her supporters.
"By silencing my voice they've also taken away, or tried to take away, my First Amendment rights to speak," Hargrave said in the video. "I am appalled at this, and you should be, too."
The Louisiana Association of Educators held a rally for Hargrave on Thursday in Abbeville, where the board meeting was held. The group chanted "Stand by Deyshia" and carried signs, including one that said "Silence One #Hear Us ROAR!!"
"What happened to Deyshia concerns all of us because we know what happened to her could have easily have happened to any one of us," said Suzanne Breaux, a special education teacher and president of the Vermillion Association of Educators.
"Her mistreatment highlights the issues that educators face worldwide ... Educators' opinions are considered irrelevant and not germane to decisions being made about our students," said Breaux.
Deborah Meaux, president of the state association, said Hargrave "spoke up. She called out an injustice."
"Deyshia has become a heroine in the fight to be heard," said Meaux.
Brian Blackwell, attorney for teachers' union, said Hargrave is considering legal action. "In 30 years I've never seen anything like this," Blackwell told CNN. "This has certainly caused an outrage locally, nationally and internationally."