This entry is the second guest post on Teacher Voice. Any other teachers want to share their perspectives on education issues? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org. As today’s guest blogger, Kimberly-Jo Foster’s friend says, “unite and fight.”
Fight for Public Education
By Kimberly-Jo Foster
Today, many of my co-workers and myself are wearing red in support of Deyshia Hargrave. For any readers who are unaware, Deyshia Hargrave is a middle school ELA teacher in Louisiana who was recently arrested after speaking at a school board meeting. You can read more about that here. No one in that room did anything to help her. We teach our students and children how to identify bullies, victims, and bystanders in similar situations, but as adults we handle those situations just as poorly. In a recent interview, the Superintendent said he failed to speak up when he should have. A board member even stated after the arrest that is how women in Vermilion Parish are treated.
Ms. Hargrave thought it was pertinent to address the Superintendent’s raise because his contract with a raise and car were up for a vote, and it was relevant. The superintendent in Vermilion Parish was getting a $30,000+ raise with a car that would have gas and maintenance provided by the school district. Whereas, Vermilion Parish teachers have a starting salary of about $39,548 and haven’t had a raise in 10 years. On top of which, they have class sizes that are outrageously large which make teaching an even more monumental task.
Ms. Hargrave was not rude, out of order, or speaking out of turn. She did not resist arrest. The only moment of “resistance” we see in the video is Ms. Hargrave speaking directly to a board member asking “Is it against policy to stand?” The police officer tries to grab her arm, and she says “Sir, do not”. She has every right to not be touched. In that moment, she was not under arrest and after that she did leave without causing a scene. Within under two minutes of leaving the room, we hear that she is being arrested and see her on the ground. Ms. Hargrave, who is substantially shorter than the deputy, is having a difficult time getting to her feet and moving at the pace of the officer as she is taken out of the building in handcuffs.
This event speaks to two things in my mind: the poor treatment of women in this country and the attacks on public education. In this country, particularly here in Florida, public education is under constant attack in favor privatization and for-profit charters. Ms. Hargrave is an example of an educator speaking out about how unfair the divide is between teachers, top administrators, and policy makers. We are doing the most work for very little pay in comparison to those who are no longer on the front lines educating students. Educators rarely get credit for the successes we have in the classrooms, but all the failures get laid out at our feet. It is important that as educators, parents, and citizens that you attend public school board meetings. Listen to what is going on in your school district regardless of whether or not you have a student enrolled in a public school. Pay attention to legislation that impacts education at a national and state level. Don’t forget to vote in national, state, and local elections. If we do not unite together as educators and community members to save our public schools more abuses like this will occur, and it will further disenfranchise groups of already struggling students. Abraham Lincoln once said “A house divided against itself cannot stand”, and it’s time we all stood together to fight for public education.