There were plenty of signs in support of Deyshia Hargrave,
The signs were big and small.
More than 200 people attend rally to support Vermilion Parish teacher Deyshia Hargrave
When Deyshia Hargrave stood up to ask a question about the superintendent’s salary at Monday’s Vermilion Parish School Board meeting, she had no intention of starting a movement.
Hargrave said she attended the school board meeting to best serve her students and the community.
“I teach kids daily to treat everyone with respect and to speak out when they witness something that is wrong,” Hargrave said Thursday.
Hargrave asked why the Superintendent Jerome Puyau was in line for a raise while teachers have not received a pay increase in 10 years. Moments after she posed the question, an officer removed Hargrave from the meeting in handcuffs.
“Not only was I denied my First Amendment rights,” Hargrave said, “I was treated with shocking disrespect.”
And it started a movement.
More than 200 supporters gathered in Magdalen Square in downtown Abbeville Thursday afternoon for the #standbydeyshia” community rally. Those supporters, including many local educators, chanted “Stand by Deyshia” on several instances during the hour-long event. Signs with messages backing the Rene Rost Middle School teacher dotted the square.
Jacob Gaspard, whose 10-year-old daughter is one of Hargrave’s students, spoke about his daughter’s favorite teacher.
“Deyshia stood up,” Gaspard said. “We’re all here standing up. I’m a parent and I am standing here. That is the kind of teacher I want for my kids. When something is wrong, stand up and say something. Don’t sit back, say something. It took one person who is maybe five-feet tall to stand up and make a change. Imagine what can happen when you all stand up. Change is going to happen and it’s going to be awesome.
“Thank you, Deyshia.”
Shelly Byron, vice president of the Vermilion Association of Educators, said during the rally that teachers will indeed stand together.
“We will rise together to right this injustice,” Byron said. “Rise up. One voice can impact many. Deyshia Hargrave’s voice made the world aware of the inequality in education in Vermilion Parish and districts across this nation. Rise up for educators and support staff.
“Our combined voice is powerful and will bring the change we seek.”
Hargrave said one thing will not change, how much the teachers care about the students.
“Teachers work hard every day,” Hargrave said. “We love your kids.”
Hargrave said she does want what happened to her to be a spark that encourages those with concerns to go to meetings and be involved.
“If me getting arrested doesn’t get you to come out,” Hargrave said, “I don’t know what will. “Today my heart is broken, but my will is not. What happened to me should not dissuade others from speaking out.
“I hope and pray that my experience will empower you.”