When you are an educator, instructing, encouraging, and connecting with your students is a priority because it is the key to providing young people with the support and tools they deserve. Asking questions and challenging those in positions of authority is a priority, too, because it’s how we can provide all students—regardless of where they live—with the opportunity to succeed.
Tell that to certain members of the school board and the superintendent in Vermilion Parish, a community on the southern coast of Louisiana. By now, we’ve all seen video of teacher Deyshia Hargrave’s arrest after asking why the superintendent was getting a raise while educators were not.
For exercising her First Amendment right to freedom of speech, Hargrave, a middle school English teacher, was pulled from the meeting, handcuffed, and placed in a patrol car. Sanity has prevailed and the city attorney won’t pursue a case against Hargrave, but the damage has been done.
I don’t know what motivated some of the Vermilion board members, but clearly they’re ashamed of Superintendent Jerome Puyau’s raise; that’s the only logical reason for their completely illogical and over-the-top reaction.
What happened in Vermilion Parish is an insult to educators everywhere. We must be clear that any attempt to silence us infringes upon our ability to advocate for students. We must always ask questions that are essential to providing them with a quality education, garnering the resources we need to do our jobs, and standing up for our values as teachers, paraeducators, specialized instructional support personnel, and higher education professionals and administrators who are driven by our devotion to students.
The Vermilion Association of Educators and Louisiana Association of Educators held a #TeacherVoice rally to support Deyshia Hargrave and the many educators like her across the nation who use their voices to speak out for what our students need and deserve. These educators are leading by example, showing students what it means to be informed and active citizens who are making our democracy stronger.
We will not be silenced. Not in Vermilion Parish, and not anywhere else.