School superintendent accused of racist rant resigns

School superintendent accused of racist rant resigns

Geye Hamby, the superintendent of Georgia's Buford school system, has resigned amid allegations he made racist comments that were captured on audio recordings. 

BUFORD, Ga. — Buford City Schools Superintendent Geye Hamby has resigned days after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution broke the news he had been named in a racial discrimination lawsuit and accused of using offensive slurs.

Hamby tendered his resignation in a short letter to the school board.

“My sincere apologies for any actions that may have created adversity for this community and the Buford School District,” he wrote. “Thank you for your many years of support and leadership.”

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Hamby had been placed on administrative leave earlier this week, after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the allegations. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, includes recordings in which a person identified as Hamby used racial epithets repeatedly when referring to African-American workers at a construction site. "(Expletive) that (n-word). I'll kill these (expletive) — shoot that (expletive) if they let me," the person identified as Hamby can be heard saying. The person speaking repeatedly refers to blacks as "deadbeat (n-word)."

Hamby has worked at the district of four schools, Buford Elementary, Middle and High Schools and Buford Academy, since 2006. He was earning $308,000 a year and had received glowing reviews, according to personnel files obtained through the Open Records Act.

Hamby’s evaluations show that, year after year, he received the highest mark — “outstanding” — in almost all of the dozens of categories for which he was graded. And he received the second-highest mark — “good” — for almost all of the other categories.

“He is near perfect for our school district,” wrote school board chair Phillip Beard, who also chairs the city commission, in Hamby's 2017 assessment.

The school board’s next regular monthly meeting is at 7 p.m. on Monday. No one was available for comment when the AJC went to the district headquarters earlier this week, and Hamby’s only comment has been an emailed statement saying, “This is a personnel and legal matter pertaining to a disgruntled employee.” He wrote that he’d been instructed “not to comment.”

The lawsuit was filed in June against the Buford school system by Mary Ingram, 66, who worked as a paraprofessional. She was fired in 2017 after two years of being written up, which she said started only after she circulated a petition calling for a change to the school system’s emblem. She had always received sterling evaluations before pressing the emblem change, the lawsuit states.

Ingram wanted the color gold, representing the city’s black school district before the system was integrated in 1969, added to the district’s green and white color scheme.

"I was afraid we were about to lose our heritage," Ingram said in an interview with the AJC. "I wanted them to know it was important to the community."

News of the lawsuit and accusations impacted tight-knit Buford, where members of the school district consider each other family. Past and present students the AJC said Hamby has always been known as a genial administrator on friendly terms with the school community.

“He was always nice and kind,” said Buford High School senior Arieonna Vaker, 17. “He was always supersweet to all the kids. He was never mean to anyone.”

While the specifics of the lawsuit shocked her, allegations of racism in general didn’t strike her as terribly surprising.

“When I was younger and was wearing my hair natural, another kid said I should go back to the cotton fields where I belong,” said Vaker, who is African-American. “I used to get mad. Now I just ignore it. People are going to be ignorant.”