Louisiana Record

Monday, August 19, 2019

ACLU calls teacher's arrest at Vermilion Parish School Board meeting a 'heavy-handed attempt to silence dissent'


By Carrie Bradon | Jan 23, 2019

A middle school teacher in Kaplan and the Louisiana attorney general have filed a lawsuit against the Vermilion Parish School Board claiming the teacher was forcibly removed from a school board meeting for respectfully disagreeing.

A Jan. 14 article posted on The Advertiser said Deyshia Hargrave, a teacher at Rene Rost Middle School, filed a lawsuit alleging she was arrested and forcefully taken to the police station for opposing a vote at a January 2018 board meeting.

Hargrave claims she stood up to question a proposed pay raise for the superintendent when she was arrested by Abbeville City Deputy Marshal Reggie Hilts, who was serving as security for the meeting. 

The ACLU of Louisiana recently become involved in the case, and its executive director, Alanah Odoms Hebert, recently spoke with the Louisiana Record about the situation. 

"This incident was a clear violation of Deyshia Hargrave's constitutional rights for which the officials and officer responsible should absolutely be held accountable," Hebert said.

Hargrave was simply exercising her First Amendment rights, an action which should not have subjected her to forceful arrest and humiliation, Herbert said. "No one should face physical violence or intimidation for exercising their First Amendment rights, especially not in a public meeting convened for the purpose of hearing the viewpoints of citizen constituents." 

Hargrave was arrested after she questioned why the superintendent was receiving a raise when the teachers had not had one in years, the Advertiser article said. School Board President Anthony Fontana attempted to silence Hargrave's questioning prior to the arrest, the article said.

"The ACLU of Louisiana condemns this heavy-handed attempt to silence dissent with excessive force and supports Ms. Hargrave's quest to seek justice through the courts" Herbert said. "If Ms. Hargrave’s right to free speech is infringed upon without recourse, the right of all Louisianians to speak freely and express their views is in jeopardy."

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