NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana school board’s office went on temporary lockdown after getting death threats from around the world in response to widely viewed video of a teacher screaming while being handcuffed at a school board meeting.
The threats have come from as far away as South America, Australia and England, as well as other U.S. states, Vermilion Parish School Board President Anthony Fontana told The Advertiser newspaper Tuesday. He said they’ve been reported to the FBI and local police.
Middle-school English teacher Deyshia Hargrave was removed from Monday night’s meeting, forcibly handcuffed and jailed after questioning pay policies during a public comment period. The teacher’s union and the ACLU are investigating and two board members are complaining that the board treats women unfairly.
A video posted by KATC-TV shows Hargrave complying with a city marshal’s orders to leave the Vermilion Parish School Board meeting in Abbeville, west of New Orleans. Next, she is seen on the hallway floor, screaming as the marshal handcuffs her hands behind her back.
“Stop resisting,” the marshal says, hustling Hargrave toward an exit after lifting her to her feet.
“I am not, you just pushed me to the floor,” Hargrave responds.
Hargrave later bonded out of the Abbeville jail on charges of “remaining after being forbidden” and resisting an officer, according to KATC.
The station reported that Fontana had ruled Hargrave out of order for asking questions during a time reserved for public comment. Later in the same meeting, she spoke again in response to a question from the board and was confronted by the marshal despite objections from the audience. “She was recognized!” several people said.
“This is the most disgraceful and distasteful thing I have ever seen,” another audience member said as Hargrave made her way out.
Women have several times been told to leave meetings, while men who speak out have not been removed, board member Laura LeBeouf told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday.
“When she realized she had to get out, she picked up her purse and walked out,” LeBeouf said. “Women in this parish are not getting the same treatment.”
The board’s other woman member expressed similar sentiments.
“No reason for anyone to be treated this way. So far in 3 years, only women have been removed from board room meetings,” Sara Duplechain wrote in an emailed response to AP’s questions.
It remains unclear why Hargrave was handcuffed. In a longer video posted on YouTube by a reporter for the Abbeville Meridional, the officer is heard telling Hargrave outside the building that he had given her “many lawful orders to leave.”
“And that’s exactly what I was doing,” Hargrave insists.
Neither the board president nor Superintendent Jerome Puyau returned phone calls or emails seeking comment. Puyau told media in southwest Louisiana that the school system would not seek to have Hargrave prosecuted.
Longstanding divisions on the eight-member school board preceded the meeting, according to LeBeouf and board member Kibbie Pillette, both of whom said that a new contract for Puyau give him the opportunity to earn as much as $38,000 more per year, while the board hasn’t raised teacher salaries in more than a decade.
Pillette said he wouldn’t be surprised if teachers decide to walk out to protest Hargrave’s treatment, although they were at work Tuesday.
Other board members either declined comment or didn’t respond to queries Tuesday.
The Louisiana Association of Educators has a lawyer for Hargrave.
“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,” the union’s statement said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana said it was investigating as well.
“Deyshia Hargrave’s expulsion from a public meeting and subsequent arrest are unacceptable and raise serious constitutional concerns,” the organization said in an emailed news release.