A Vermilion Parish teacher was arrested at a school board meeting Monday night under highly dubious circumstances. As KATC-TV described the incident:
The superintendent of Vermilion Parish schools says the board won’t press charges against a teacher who was removed from the board’s special meeting Monday night.
Deyshia Hargrave, an English language arts teacher at Rene Rost Middle Schools, addressed the board during the public comments portion of the meeting to discuss teacher salaries and pay raises. After Hargrave posed several questions, board president Anthony Fontana ruled Hargrave out of order, warning her that the public comment section was not for a question-and-answer session.
Hargrave was called upon a second time for comment. After posing another question, an Abbeville city marshal on duty at the meeting grabbed Hargrave and removed her from the meeting. Handcuffs were later placed on Hargrave as she was removed from the building.
It is unclear if the marshal was acting on his own accord or on the orders of board members.
From this description, it might sound as though the arrest was warranted. However, the video of the incident provides a markedly different impression:
As the video shows, Ms. Hargrave’s “questions” were really more rhetorical than anything. She was essentially asking: “How can you be raising salaries on top while rank-and-file teachers see nothing?” Fair or not, that’s the type of question you don’t really expect an answer to. It’s not inappropriate given the context.
However, the real issue here is that the situation went from zero to handcuffs in no time at all. Normally, when somebody has to be removed from a public meeting, there’s an escalation that begins with the individual being asked to sit down and be quiet. If the person continues to rant, they are then asked to leave voluntarily. Only after that should law enforcement get involved. An arrest should be a last resort.
This process appears to be entirely absent here; it does not appear that she was never asked to leave by the school board, although the latter objected that her comments were not sufficiently related to the subject matter (yet they clearly were). Whether on his own initiative or at the behest of the board, a sheriff’s deputy intervened prematurely and demanded that she leave. Aghast, Ms. Hargrave hesitated for a few moments and asked the board what was going on before following the officer out. There was no need to arrest her after that.
The bottom line is that this should have never happened this way. Nothing Ms. Hargrave did merited her removal, to say nothing of her arrest. It makes you wonder if there is something squirrely going on with the board.