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Wednesday
Jan102018

Teacher's handcuffing at school board meeting 'unacceptable,' raises 'serious constitutional concerns': ACLU

konstantin71/iStock/Thinkstock(KAPLAN, La.) -- A Louisiana middle school teacher’s "unacceptable" arrest at a school board meeting during an altercation caught on camera this week raises "serious constitutional concerns," according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Deyshia Hargrave’s expulsion from a public meeting and subsequent arrest are unacceptable and raise serious constitutional concerns," ACLU of Louisiana Interim Executive Director Jane Johnson said. "The Constitution prohibits the government from punishing or retaliating against people for expressing their views, and the fact that a schoolteacher was arrested at a public meeting of the school board is especially troubling.”

Deyshia Hargrave, an English language arts teacher at Rene A. Rost Middle School in Kaplan, Louisiana, was handcuffed and taken into custody Monday after she was removed from the meeting, where she raised issues about the Vermilion Parish School System superintendent’s new three-year deal that includes a raise, ABC Lafayette affiliate KATC-TV reported.

That's when an Abbeville city deputy marshal employed by the school district, according to KATC, confronted Hargrave. The marshal asked Hargrave to sit down or be removed.

Hargrave left on her own but the dispute between the teacher and the marshal became physical outside the meeting room, video from KATC shows. The middle school teacher is seen on video screaming on the ground and being handcuffed by the deputy marshal.

Hargrave was arrested by the Abbeville Police Department but Abbeville city attorney and prosecutor Ike Funderburk told KATC that after watching the video, he will not prosecute Hargrave.

Hargrave has not responded to ABC News' requests for comment,

The Louisiana Association of Educators said Hargrave is a member of its association, writing, "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."

"It is every citizen’s right to speak up for their beliefs," the association said. "Any action that infringes upon this right is unlawful and unacceptable."

But the school board president, Anthony Fontana, defended the actions of the officer in a Tuesday interview with KATC, comparing the action taken to a student’s being punished for unruliness.

"If a teacher has the authority to send a student, who is acting up and she can't control, out of the classroom to the principal's office, under our policy we have the same rules," Fontana said. "We have certain rules: three-minute speech, it has to be civilized, it can't get off target, it has to be related to the issue before the board. That's not what was happening last night.

"The marshal did his job," Fontana added. "He was taking her out. He wasn't arresting her. He was escorting her out, telling her, 'Don't come back tonight.' It escalated out in the hall and she ended up getting arrested.”

Fontana said he believes the incident was a "set up," KATC also reported.

The other board members "have been committed to getting rid of the superintendent," he said.

He added: "The whole issue, from day one, was that they were not going to give him a contract."

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