After a Louisiana school teacher's arrest at a public school board meeting went viral, Deyshia Hargrave is back teaching and hopes her experience sends a message to her fellow educators.
"I'm hoping for teachers, people outside of education, to have a voice," the middle school English teacher said Thursday on the "Today" show. "Show up. You don't have to say anything. Just show up. Just do something."
Hargrave's arrest came Monday at a public school board meeting, where the board approved by a 5–3 vote a $30,000 salary increase for Superintendent Jerome Puyau. Teachers, meanwhile, haven't received a salary increase in about decade.
Hargrave was asked by a board member to comment on the vote, according to video taken of the meeting by a local reporter, and she asked Puyau, "How are you going to take that money, because it's basically taken out of the pockets of teachers?"
The school board president then banged his gavel and said her question was irrelevant. The crowd became agitated and Hargrave was asked to leave the meeting by a school resource officer hired by the board, The Associated Press reported.
Video showed Hargrave on the hallway floor being handcuffed, though it did not capture the moments just before her arrest. The officer arrested her for "remaining after being forbidden" and resisting an officer, according to the AP. She bonded out of jail, and the city said she won't be prosecuted.
Now, Puyua agrees with Hargrave that teachers deserve more money, but he wonders why she questioned his salary increase.
We "can always use more money in the classroom," he told "Today." "But, when is a good time for a superintendent to get a raise?"
"I don't support our people getting arrested," Puyau added. "However, a person has to follow the rules."
In an interview with CBS, Puyau took responsibility for the incident, saying, "I'm the superintendent, I'm to blame."
When asked what he did wrong, Puyau told CBS, "I should have stood up, OK? That's what you want to hear, and it's the truth. I should have stood up [and said,] 'Let her speak.'"
Since the video was posted online, where it has drawn more than a million views, Puyau told "Today" he and his family have received death threats. School system offices even went on temporary lockdown.
"More people were hurt. It is not fair to our family," he said emotionally.
Hargrave said she has only seen the video of her arrest twice because it's "too disturbing" to watch.
"It's sad that a woman has to be forcibly, violently removed from a board meeting for people to start caring," she said on "Today" of the response to the video.
She added that she felt uneasy "with the realization that my students were gonna see the video and I had to go to work the next day."
"I wasn't sure how they were gonna feel about it," she said.
However, Hargrave added, "They're fine, so I'm fine."
Hargrave said she would like an apology from Puyau and the officer who arrested her. And the Louisiana Association of Educators and Vermilion Association of Educators hosted a local rally Thursday afternoon in support of Hargrave, who was expected to speak at the event.
About 100 people gathered in a light rain Thursday to rally to support Hargrave.
"I hope and pray my experience will empower you — my students, young women everywhere — to know that you have a voice," Hargrave told the crowd. "Use it. Many, many women suffered tremendously and sacrificed greatly for us to have this voice. ... And this is for the boys, too. You matter."
She was backed by fellow teachers wearing black T-shirts that read: "#standbydeyshia." Signs held by members of the crowd included one reading, "We will not be silenced."