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Buford residents critical of school board’s response to former leader’s alleged racism
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Residents turned out for the Buford Board of Education meeting Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, to express frustration over the handling of former superintendent Geye Hamby's resignation amid allegations of a racist rant and a lawsuit alleging discrimination.

Buford residents angered by racist comments former Superintendent Geye Hamby allegedly made gave the school board a tongue-lashing at a meeting on Monday, Aug. 27, over its handling of the incident.

Hamby resigned Friday after being accused of using racial slurs in audio recordings made public as part of a discrimination lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

“My sincere apologies for any actions that may have created adversity for this community and the Buford School District,” Hamby wrote in his resignation letter.

With a crowd of hundreds, black and white, pouring into the lobby of the school district’s central office, parents, students, clergy and other community residents expressed their disgust with Hamby.

But much of the questioning and concern was reserved for the board, which has not issued an apology or public statement regarding Hamby, other than to quietly accept his resignation at the beginning of the meeting.  

Ben Haynes, 42, a father of three children in Buford schools, said it was shameful that the board had not communicated with parents.

It was a sentiment echoed often, with residents yelling out that Hamby should have been fired.

“We are better than this,” Haynes told the board.

The school board placed Hamby on administrative leave last Wednesday after the racist comments he is accused of making were made public.

In two recordings, a person alleged to be Hamby discusses his frustration with African-American workers at a construction site and said he would “shoot that (expletive) if they let me.”

In one instance, the individual alleged to be Hamby said, “Don’t send us a deadbeat (n-word) from a temp service ... Well, (expletive) we can find you some kids around here that want a damn job ... They can do more than the damn deadbeat (n-word).”

The recordings were submitted in a lawsuit to bolster claims of racial bias that led to the termination of Mary Ingram, 66, in June 2017.

Ingram had worked for the city school district for more than 18 years.

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Mary Ingram is the plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging discrimination against the Buford School District. Recordings provided as evidence in the lawsuit are alleged to be of former Buford school superintendent Geye Hamby making a racist rant. - photo by Joshua Silavent

School board member Phillip Beard is alleged to be the person Hamby is speaking to in the recording (the second person does not use a racial slur), an accusation he would neither confirm or deny when asked by residents.

“We lost a strong leader when Hamby went down,” Beard said at one point, his words met with thundering jeers and disbelief.

He quickly added that he meant it was Hamby who controlled communication with students, parents and staff.

“We struggled all week to deal with this,” Beard said. 

But when directly questioned by resident Erica Gwyn about whether he was present when Hamby purportedly made his racist comments, Beard equivocated. 

“I don’t know if that was me on this recording,” he said, adding that the recording needed to be analyzed by lawyers to determine its authenticity.

“If it is, then I’m guilty,” Beard later said.

In response, Jeff Williams, who said his wife is a teacher in Buford, told Beard he faced a “hat in hand” moment.

“It’s a crying shame,” Williams said.  

Ed Buckley, Ingram’s attorney in the lawsuit ongoing against Hamby, said his resignation last week is a “step in the right direction” but that the board “needs to account for a number of things.”

“It was only when (the recordings) came to light in the media that they reacted to it,” Buckley added.

Buckley said he believes it is Beard on the recording speaking with Hamby.

“He was pretty dodgy about it …” he said. “If most people were in a room or in a car when a racial rant like that occurred, they’d either remember it or they’d say they were never there. He didn’t say either. I believe that is very telling.”

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