Superintendent used racial slurs, threatened to kill black workers: suit

A school superintendent in Georgia repeatedly used racial slurs during recorded conversations and once threatened to kill black workers at a construction site, a lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit, filed on Aug. 1 in US District Court in Atlanta, alleges that Buford City Schools Superintendent Geye Hamby uttered the slurs toward black temporary workers a total of eight times while criticizing them in conversations captured on audio, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“[Expletive] that [n-word],” the person identified as Hamby, 49, said, according to the lawsuit. “I’ll kill these [expletive] — shoot that [expletive] if they let me.”

Hamby — who has declined to comment on the allegations, citing the advice of attorneys for the district — also repeatedly used the term “deadbeat [n-word]” while referring to black people, according to the lawsuit filed by plaintiff Mary Ingram, a 66-year-old paraprofessional who worked for the district for 18 years before getting fired last year.

The lawsuit doesn’t indicate exactly when Hamby allegedly made the comments or toward whom they were directed. The lawsuit also doesn’t specify how the recordings were obtained, according to the newspaper.

Ingram’s attorney, Ed Buckley, declined to specify how he obtained the recordings or additional details pertaining to them, aside to say he’s certain Hamby is the person heard on the recordings.

Ingram’s troubles within the school district started after she questioned Hamby as to why the color gold — which stood for the city’s black school district prior to integration in 1969 — wasn’t included in the district’s green and white logo. She later led a petition in support of adding the color and brought it up to the school board in 2014 before floating the idea during City Hall meetings, according to the Journal-Constitution.

“I was afraid we were about to lose our heritage,” Ingram told the newspaper recently. “I wanted them to know it was important to the community.”

Ingram had an unpleasant run-in with Hamby in a hallway weeks later and she was subsequently called into a meeting with Hamby during which he told her he wanted her to tell him in advance what she planned to say during future school board and city commission meetings, according to the lawsuit.

After she refused, saying that would infringe on her First Amendment rights, Ingram started receiving negative performance reviews after years and years of positive feedback. She was also told to stop encouraging students to smile after they got off the bus before school, the lawsuit claims.

Ingram ultimately was fired in June 2017 for “being disrespectful, argumentative and unfriendly” as well as not being a “good fit” in a school environment.

“I couldn’t move,” Ingram said of being fired. “I just froze. My legs felt weak … Before this happened, I looked forward every morning to getting up and going to work to do things for the children.”

Ingram didn’t file her lawsuit until after hearing the audio recordings, she told the newspaper.

“This is the man who is over our children,” she said.

Hamby, whose base salary was $308,000 last year, characterized the lawsuit in a statement as a “personnel and legal matter pertaining to a disgruntled employee.”

An attorney for the school board also questioned the veracity of the “purported” recordings.

“Our investigation continues into this matter, but we are hamstrung in that the plaintiff has failed or refused to produce the original recording for testing or provide any information concerning the background or foundation of the recording,” attorney Walt Britt said.

Eleven percent of students in the district are black, compared to about 53 percent who are white and 30 percent who are Latino, state education records show. The district’s five-member school board, meanwhile, is entirely white, according to the Journal-Constitution.

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