The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Attempt to Silence Louisiana Teacher

Jan 22, 2018

A sixth-grade teacher was arrested at a school board meeting of the Vermillion Parish school district in Southern Louisiana on January 8. Her crime? To speak out publicly against a big pay raise the board gave the district’s superintendent!

An online video from the meeting shows the teacher, Deyshia Hargrave, calling the raise for the superintendent “a slap in the face to the teachers, cafeteria workers and support staff in the district, who work very hard with very little.” (A school board member later confirmed that district teachers had not gotten a raise in 10 years.) Hargrave also points to growing class sizes at her school, and others in the audience are seen supporting Hargrave’s comments vocally.

After the board’s approval of the superintendent’s contract – which, a district employee told The Huffington Post, included a 38,000-dollar raise and a car – Hargrave spoke again, asking the superintendent, “How are you taking that raise, ... when we have class sizes that are that big?

That’s when a cop walked toward Hargrave and told her to leave the room – which she did, while she and other audience members protested. The video then shows the cop handcuffing Hargrave in the hallway.

In two days, by January 10, the video was viewed online more than 1.7 million times, causing an outcry in the whole country. On January 11, hundreds of people showed up for a rally in Abbeville, Louisiana (population 12,000) on a rainy afternoon, to show support for Hargrave.

In fact, such protests at school board meetings have been happening for years across the country in working-class districts, in the face of layoffs and pay cuts for teachers and other school workers, increasing class sizes, cancellation of entire programs and services, and even closure of schools. And officials have always tried to silence and stifle the protests. Perhaps the only difference this time was that this incident was captured on video and seen online by hundreds of thousands of people.

A teacher, who retired from the Vermillion Parish school district last year, said that most teachers have been afraid to publicly speak out, but that a teacher strike may now be on the horizon. There is no reason why these fights couldn’t expand and broaden, when working class people across the country are experiencing the same thing.