A school superintendent in Georgia has been placed on leave after he was accused of using the n-word multiple times in conversations about black construction workers, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Recordings of the conversations emerged in a discrimination lawsuit filed against the schools chief by a former employee, the newspaper reports. It has not been confirmed that the man heard making the racist rants in the audio is the accused superintendent.
Geye Hamby, the 49-year-old superintendent of Buford City Schools in Georgia, has been on leave since August 21, when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported on the lawsuit. Mary Ingram, a former paraprofessional, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta in June. Ingram was fired in 2017 and claims in the lawsuit that she was discriminated against because she is black. Ingram’s attorneys say they had the recordings analyzed and believe the man speaking was Hamby. The 66-year-old Ingram told WXIA-TV she believes Hamby would use the racial slur. “Oh, I’m sure,and a lot of people have talked about when he talked to them, he talked to them so disrespectful,” she told the news station. “And not just blacks; blacks, whites; just — people. With that authority; that voice that he would use.”
In a response to the lawsuit, Hamby’s attorneys denied that he discriminated against Ingram and also denied he used racial slurs. Hamby said in a statement, “This is a personnel and legal matter pertaining to a disgruntled employee. District council has advised not to comment.” The school district said in a statement, “The Board anticipates further action on this matter at a specially called meeting in the next several days. The District will continue to focus on the mission of empowering our students to reach their full potential.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. In the Recording, a Man Identified by a Former Employee as Hamby, Can be Heard Saying ‘F*ck That N*gger, I Kill These Goddamn – Shoot That Motherf*cker if They Let Me’
In the recordings, which you can listen to above, a man can be heard speaking about construction workers who were involved in a project at the school, some of whom were black. According to the lawsuit, the man in the audio is Geye Hamby, the school district’s superintendent.
At one point in the audio, the man calls the workers “deadbeat n*ggers.” He then gets upset because one of the workers told him he didn’t have to listen to him. “F*ck that n*gger,” the man in the recording, said to be Hamby, says. “I kill these Goddamn – shoot that motherf*cker if they let me.”
In the second record, the man said to be Hamby again expressed anger about the workers. “And then they had a damn attitude when Phillip spoke to them. They told them: Get off the job site. But check it out for me. I haven’t even had time to talk to Dennis about it cause Phillip and Dennis already talked about it, and I know Phillip told two of the n*ggers to get off the damn job site.”
He continued, “Find out. I mean, damn it, we, send a, I park, send us a park-quality person. Don’t send us a deadbeat n*gger from a temp service. … Well, sh*t, we can find you some kids around here that want a damn job. That’s good people, yeah. Well, look, we’ve got, we’ve got young kids right here that put in the work. They can do more than the damn deadbeat n*ggers, and they don’t have – and y’all pay them to do it.”
Mary Ingram’s attorney, Ed Buckley, told WSB-TV, “This recording was sent anonymously to Ms. Ingram. We have had it analyzed are prepared to demonstrate that at the appropriate time. We are also confident there will be other witnesses who will identify it as Mr. Hamby’s voice.
He told WAGA-TV the recording shows Hamby’s racial bias. “Bias towards (Ingram), bias towards the community at large that she sought to represent at these public meetings,” Buckley told the news station. He asked anyone with information about the recording to come forward. “If they know who recorded it, or if the individual who recorded it would come forward, we would be happy to talk to them
The lawsuit also accuses another city official, school board chairman Phillip Beard, of being present during Hamby’s alleged racist rant and of not reporting it.
2. The Former Employee, Who Worked With Special Education Students, Says She Was Targeted Because She Spoke Out at Board Meetings & Because of Her Race
Mary Ingram said in the lawsuit that she had received positive reviews throughout her career as a paraprofessional, working with special education students. That changed in 2014, when she began to speak out at school board meetings, according to the lawsuit. Ingram was concerned that the school district was not including gold in a new high school facility and school shirts. The school’s colors had been green, white and gold, with the gold coming from the all-black Greenward-Watson High School, which was integrated with Buford in 1969. She created a petition asking for the color gold to continue to be included, according to the lawsuit.
Ingram said Hamby became upset that she had created the petition and was speaking out at city meetings. She said she saw him at her school once and ignored her. When she called him out for not saying anything to her, Ingram claims Hamby responded with contempt, “No, I didn’t speak to you and I don’t have to and I probably would never speak to you again.” She said Hamby did not tell her she couldn’t attend the meetings, but she felt he was threatening her job if she continued do to so. Ingram claims in the lawsuit that Hamby then conspired with other school officials to create a paper trail so she could be fired. She was then fired in 2017.
You can read the full complaint below:
“Ms. Ingram was very beloved in the teaching community and by children as well,” her attorney, Ed Buckley, told WSB-TV. “Mr. Hamby took great umbrage at her speaking out at a public meeting. Her First Amendments were violated. Her rights to association with African-American people were violated.
Ingram told WAGA-TV, I thought that I would be there forever until I was no longer able to work. I feel relieved that it is out. It is something I have been holding for a while.”
“That was like taking a big part of my life away from me,” Ingram said about being fired. “It made me sick, ill. I threw up a lot. I lost a lot of weight. I couldn’t sleep. It has been a struggle.”
Buckley told the news station, “The bigger picture is that the Buford community as a whole needs to take a hard look at its school superintendent, and decide whether they want the school system that exists in the 21st Century.”
3. Hamby Became Buford’s Superintendent in 2006 After Previously Working There as Assistant Superintendent & as a Principal at Cartersville High School
Geye Hamby was hired as Buford’s superintendent in 2006 after working as the district’s assistant superintendent for five years. Hamby told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that year, “The Buford City Schools system is one of the best school systems in the state of Georgia. I also think it is probably one of the best-kept secrets in this part of the state. We have an excellent reputation for both academics and athletics. I am just absolutely thrilled to be here and to be a part of this community.”
He said he was looking forward to, “Having a positive influence on students, faculty and staff. I’m a positive person, an optimistic person. I hope to bring that to my position.” He added that it would be a challenge, “Dealing with the growth we are experiencing in the city of Buford. And the ESOL [English for Speakers of Other Languages] growth we are experiencing in this area. … Because it is limited growth, we will be able to maintain our hometown feel and community atmosphere. We’ve done an excellent job with the new middle school [opened in July 2004] and that can accommodate more students. We’ve also planned for growth at our other schools.”
Hamby has received high praise in his reviews while working in Buford, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“He is near perfect for our school district,” his January 2017 evaluation assessment written by Phillip Beard, the chairman of the Buford Board of Education, said. Beard is accused of being present while Hamby allegedly used the racial slurs and of not reporting them, according to court documents. Hamby was also well-liked in the district, the newspaper reports.
4. He Was Sued in 2010 After a Bus Driver Accused Him of Firing Her Because She Posted a Facebook Article Critical of the School District
Ingram is not the first former Buford City Schools employee to sue Hamby and the district after being fired. In 2010, a former bus driver, Michele Threlkeld, filed a federal lawsuit accusing Hamby of firing her because she shared a news article on Facebook that was critical of the school district.
Threlkeld said she was called into Hamby’s office after she shared the article and was scolded over posting it. She said in the lawsuit that Hamby claimed she had humiliated him and asked her to take down the post. He also told her she “put a big target on her back,” according to the lawsuit. She was then told a few months later that she would be losing her job. Her attorneys argued that she was fired because of the Facebook post and said that the punishment violated her First Amendment rights.
You can read the complaint here:
The article posted by Threlkeld was about the district spending more than $600,000 on a new artificial turf football field while teachers and staff were laid off. “She felt like it was poor priorities on the part of the school administration to spend money on artificial turf for a practice field when staff were being laid off,” her attorney, George Weaver told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2010. “She has a right to her opinion.”
The case was settled in 2011 through mediation, but it is unclear if Threlkeld received any money in the settlement as those details are not available publicly in online court records. She and her attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment about the case and Hamby.
5. Hamby, Who Is Married With a Son & Daughter, Is Originally From Rome, Georgia & Worked as a Teacher After Graduating From West Georgia College
Geye Hamby is married and has two children, a daughter and son, according to a 2006 interview in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Hamby is originally from Rome, Georgia, and graduated from West Georgia College with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education administration. He then completed his doctorate at Nova Southeastern University.
Hamby began his career in education as a teacher, working at Coosa Middle School in Rome from 1990 to 1993 teaching math. He then was the assistant principal at Pepperell Middle School in Rome before moving to Cartersville, where he was an elementary school principal. He then moved on to be the middle school principal in Cartersville for one year before taking the high school principal in the same city.
“I thoroughly enjoyed math. I thoroughly enjoy working with people. And math was my favorite subject as a student,” Hamby told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2006. “Well, why not teach? It was something that appealed to me. I helped tutor some kids in college in some advanced math. Helping them appealed to me.”
He told the newspaper he enjoys hunting and cheering on Buford’s athletic teams. “I love to hunt. I enjoy deer hunting and duck hunting. I love spending time with my children. I love watching my children play sports. I love to water ski and snow ski. We just love to be outdoors,” he added.
Hamby had been popular in the district. Tanya Hays, a parent who once worked for Hamby, told WSB-TV the accusations are hard to believe. “He’s always at the football games greeting all of the kids, no matter what race,” Hays told the news station.
“He was always nice and kind,” Buford High School senior Arieonna Vaker told the newspaper about Hamby. “He was always super sweet to all the kids. He was never mean to anyone.”
Vaker, who is black, told the AJC she experienced racism when she was younger, but never thought it would come from the administration. “When I was younger and was wearing my hair natural, another kid said I should go back to the cotton fields where I belong. I used to get mad. Now I just ignore it. People are going to be ignorant. We live in the South. Everyone says (the n-word) all the time. … I’m very disappointed. Everyone’s saying he should just quit.”
Jenipher Rea, who graduated from Buford High School in 2012, told the newspaper, “Buford is a tight-knit community. We refer to each other as family. He definitely owes the students and community an answer. He needs to hold a meeting and just apologize. Everybody is saying they want to see him step down.” She said a comment made by another student on social media was poignant, “Well, dang. I thought we were cool. I thought he liked us,” the commenter wrote.