A Simple Question

Vermilion Parish teacher arrested for questioning decisions made at school board meeting

Chris Rosa

Michael Redden, Staff Reporter

During a Vermilion Parish school board meeting, teacher Deyshia Hargrave stood and objected the school board’s decision to give Superintendent Jerome Puyau and a raise instead of acknowledging the teachers, who have been enduring an increasing number in classroom students, while also not receiving a raise in almost a decade.

“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.

In response, the marshal who was watching over the meeting was asked to escort Hargrave out of the building while she was still speaking towards the superintendent and the school board. She was asked to leave one last time, and after she finished her statement, she made her way down the row. Hargrave said she asked the officer a question, but the officer then pushed her to the floor and handcuffed her. The marshal grabbed her by the handcuffs, leading her to the car and called in a second officer to drive her to the police station, and the marshal attempted to charge Hargrave with public intimidation towards the superintendent.

In a video she made after she was released, Hargrave explains, “I 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.”

The day after, Hargrave was sent back to school as usual. The city attorney did not charge Hargrave with public intimidation. According to the Washington Post, the marshal has a history of using excessive force, accusations suggesting he even went as far as slamming a man’s head onto concrete.

She later posted a video speaking of her reaction to the mistreatment she experienced within the school board meeting by the officer and the school board members. In the video of her arrest, it is noted that she was asked to leave at first, in which she continued to address the school board and superintendent. There are multiple occasions in which the marshal placed his hand on his gun as he continued to warn the teacher. Out in the exit hallway, the officer states that she was resisting arrest, to which she denied this claim and explained that the marshal pushed her down and that she is much smaller than him.

Superintendent Jerome Puyau is now making $140,811, compared to his previous $110,130 pay, after a five to three vote from the school board members. Statistics according to KFLY show that Vermilion Parish’s teacher salaries rank 42 out of the 69 districts, while principal salaries rank 25. However, the superintendent’s salary was below both rankings with 57 out of 69. Puyau also explains that he hasn’t had a raise since he was hired as superintendent five years ago, but teacher Deyshia Hargrave says that she and other teachers and faculty have not received a raise in several years. Puyau still feels that the raise is justified after the growth of Vermilion Parish.

“When I started our district was ranked right at number 17, out of the 69. Over the course of several years, we have improved to where we now rank number six,” says Puyau.

Users online were outraged after Hargrave’s arrest as they sent multiple death threats to the superintendent and towards his family. When he was interviewed on the topic, he was emotional and in tears.

“I hated what happened,” Puyau said. “Twenty-eight years of my life were dedicated to the students of this community. It’s so hard to see it this negative, it’s tough.”

In the end, Superintendent Puyau does not blame the city marshal but instead himself.

“I should have stood up. It’s what you want to hear, and it’s the truth. I should have stood up … (and) let her speak,” Puyau said.