Crowd rallies for Louisiana teacher after her removal from board meeting

About 100 people rallied Thursday in Abbeville, La., in support of an elementary school teacher who was forcibly handcuffed and removed from a school board meeting Monday night after questioning a superintendent’s pay raise.

Waving signs heralding free speech and chanting “Stand by Deyshia,” supporters gathered in light rain on behalf of Deyshia Hargrave, whose removal from the meeting was captured in a video that attracted national attention.

Abbeville is about 150 miles west of New Orleans.

The video shows Hargrave confronting Vermilion School Superintendent Jerome Puyau about a roughly $30,000 pay raise he received from the school board in a 5-3 vote.

But Anthony Fontana, the Vermilion Parish School Board president, then declared that her comment wasn't "germane" to the vote on the contract, and banged his gavel in an attempt to silence her. According to school board member Kibbie Pillette, Fontana then beckoned off-camera to the officer, who interrupted Hargrave while she was speaking and ordered her out.

"I'm going," she said, making her way out. The officer followed her into the hallway, where moments later, a camera recorded her on the floor with her hands behind her back, being handcuffed and complaining that the officer had pushed her down.

Fontana has not returned calls for an interview with the AP, but has defended his actions and those of the officer.

After being freed from jail and returning to school Tuesday, Hargrave said she was trying to turn the ordeal into a learning experience.

“Please don’t let the conversation end with me,” Hargrave said. “Please go to your local school board meetings. Speak out, be vocal.”

Asked by the AP on Thursday who's directly to blame for the incident, Hargrave said "Anthony Fontana."

Puyau, who said he began receiving death threats as the video spread on the internet, wouldn't comment on who ordered the teacher's removal, but said he's not happy with how things played out.

"It was not good in any way," he said. "We are a good community. It took everybody by surprise. I'm having a hard time with this, but we care about our teachers and our support staff."

Earlier, Hargrave told the AP she believes Fontana should resign. She declined to suggest any discipline for Reggie Hilts, the deputy city marshal who handcuffed her on the hallway floor after she left the meeting and marched her out of the building.

Hargrave declined, at first, to say with certainty whether she would file a lawsuit in the matter.

"We'll see how it goes," she said when asked again. "But I clearly feel my First Amendment rights were violated, and I feel like, yeah, there will be a lawsuit filed for that."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.