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Lawsuit claims Buford school superintendent Hamby used racial slurs
Geye Hamby

The superintendent of Buford City Schools is alleged to have repeatedly used racial slurs in audio recordings presented as evidence in a racial discrimination lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

In transcripts of two recordings first reported by the AJC, a person alleged to be Geye 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 the claims of racial basis 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.

“The audio recordings … were presented in a link in the lawsuit as part of the pleadings in the case so that the judge could hear them and review them herself,” Buckley said, adding that “there’s going to be a lot of other evidence in the case.”

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.

Neither Hamby nor legal counsel representing the five-member school board could be reached for comment prior to deadline.

In a response to the lawsuit filed with the court, however, 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.”

Buckley said that he is looking to speak with others who may have been present when Hamby allegedly expressed racial bias against African-Americans.

“The evidence of race discrimination is sometimes very subtle,” Buckley said. “Sometimes the evidence is more obvious … We believe this is a very strong and provable case.”