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Buford school superintendent placed on leave after alleged racist rant
Geye Hamby

By Nate McCullough and Joshua Silavent

Buford schools superintendent Geye Hamby, accused of using racist language and of discriminating against a black employee, has been placed on administrative leave.

According to Gregory Jay, an attorney with the law firm representing the city school system, Hamby was placed on leave effective Aug. 21.

“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,” the city said in a statement Jay sent to The Times.

Hamby is alleged to have repeatedly used racial slurs in audio recordings presented as evidence in a discrimination lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. In the 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).”

School board attorney Walt Britt says the recordings’ authenticity hasn’t been determined.

The recordings were submitted in a lawsuit to bolster the 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.

Ed Buckley, an Atlanta lawyer representing Ingram, told The Times his client is seeking reinstatement, back pay and compensatory damages for emotional distress among other remedies.

Hamby has declined to comment.

The relationship between Ingram and Hamby began to deteriorate, according to the lawsuit, when in 2014 Ingram noticed that the color gold was excluded from the school district’s white and green emblem and school apparel.

Ingram started a petition asking for gold trim be included in the school district’s colors, as it had been since the city’s schools were integrated in 1969 to reflect the colors of the former all-black schools, the lawsuit states.

Ingram graduated from the integrated high school in 1970.

According to the lawsuit, Ingram presented the petition to the board of education and was encouraged to attend board meetings, as well as city commission meetings, to address concerns from the black community.

However, Ingram alleges that Hamby and other school leaders asked her to reveal what information she might say at these meetings prior to her attendance, which she refused to do.

Between 2014 and 2017, Ingram began receiving several critiques in her performance reviews. For example, a 2015 review asked Ingram to “please adhere to procedures for representing Buford Academy outside of school.”

Following another performance review in April 2017, according to the lawsuit, Ingram responded that she felt she was being retaliated against.

In June 2017, Ingram was terminated for being “perceived as being disrespectful, argumentative and unfriendly and not a good fit in a school environment,” according to the lawsuit.

In a response to the lawsuit filed with the court, attorneys for the Buford City School District said “all actions taken with respect to the plaintiff were for legitimate, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons.”

The response also addresses the claim that Ingram’s First Amendment rights were violated, stating that “BCSD’s interest in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs outweighs plaintiff’s interest in engaging in the free speech she claims.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.