NCAC is alarmed by the unlawful arrest of Louisiana English teacher, Deyshia Hargrave, after she was inappropriately removed from a school board meeting in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana on Monday. The First Amendment guarantees all Americans a right to speak, inquire and petition the government. NCAC calls on Louisiana Superintendent for Education John White to strongly condemn the Vermilion Parish School Board’s actions. Further, we call on the school board to publicly apologize to Deyshia Hargrave for violating her First Amendment rights and reassure the public that teachers are encouraged to engage with the administration of their school district.
Hargrave’s removal and detention at a public forum was blatantly unconstitutional. Outside of rules that govern the time, place and manner in which public comments will be heard, school board officials may not restrict speech without a clear and necessary government purpose. Video of the incident shows that Hargrave complied with these rules during the public comments portion of the meeting and again when a board member recognized her second request to speak. Hargrave’s removal and subsequent detention served no apparent government interest other than to suppress her criticism of the board’s decisions.
The Vermilion Parish School Board’s actions threaten to silence the speech of every teacher, administrator and dissenting member of the community who, like Hargrave, must be free to express their views and hold elected school officials accountable. Our public officials should be encouraging citizens’ civil engagement, not arresting them for it. This incident must be swiftly addressed by the school board and the State of Louisiana to ensure that the First Amendment is protected state-wide.
Video of Hargrave’s removal and arrest has been posted by several news outlets. It can be viewed here.