Buford, Georgia, settles a racial lawsuit that has rocked the city’s school system

The case went to court-ordered mediation and a resolution was filed earlier this month.

“The matter has been resolved to our satisfaction,” Ed Buckley, one of Ingram’s attorneys, said Monday.

Brent Bean, an attorney for the school system, did not return emails or phone calls seeking comment.

Legend

Buford native Mary Ingram, who worked as a paraprofessional, filed a lawsuit against the Buford school system in June 2018. She claims former superintendent Geye Hamby retaliated against her because she asked the school board why the color gold — representing the city’s black school district before the system was integrated in 1969 — was not included in the district’s green and white emblem. Hamby resigned in August 2018, just days after the AJC published an article about the recordings. (CREDIT: Curtis Compton / [email protected])

Buford native Mary Ingram, who worked as a paraprofessional, filed a lawsuit against the Buford school system in June 2018. She claims former superintendent Geye Hamby retaliated against her because she asked the school board why the color gold — representing the city's black school district before the system was integrated in 1969 — was not included in the district's green and white emblem.  Hamby resigned in August 2018, just days after the AJC published an article about the recordings.  (CREDIT: Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)
callout arrowLegend

Buford native Mary Ingram, who worked as a paraprofessional, filed a lawsuit against the Buford school system in June 2018. She claims former superintendent Geye Hamby retaliated against her because she asked the school board why the color gold — representing the city’s black school district before the system was integrated in 1969 — was not included in the district’s green and white emblem. Hamby resigned in August 2018, just days after the AJC published an article about the recordings. (CREDIT: Curtis Compton / [email protected])

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Lawyers for the school district had tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, but U.S. District Court Judge Eleanor Ross refused to dismiss it. She also ruled that the plaintiff’s attorneys could introduce recordings of the racist rant into evidence at trial.

The person in the recordings, identified as Hamby, can be heard saying, “(Expletive) this (n-word). I’ll kill these (expletive) – shoot this (expletive) if they let me. Agreed. Well, look what’s going on with all these (n-words) here.

After the recordings became public, hundreds of parents and students filled the school board meeting room, where tempers flared. Many demanded Hamby’s resignation.

Buford has formed a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, made up of parents, district employees and community members. An acting superintendent replaced Hamby until July 2019, when the school board hired Robert Downs as its new chief.

During a pretrial deposition, Hamby was asked if he had ever used the n-word. “I may have used it before, that’s for sure,” he said.

Although Hamby (whose first name is pronounced “GUY”) agreed that the voice on the recordings sounded like him, he denied making those claims. “I don’t remember saying anything like that, ever,” he said.

In a 2018 interview, Buford School Board Chairman Phillip Beard acknowledged that his voice also appeared on the recordings and said he believed the statements were made in the fall of 2016 at a construction site. from the Buford Arena. As for the person making the racist rant, Beard said, “It’s Hamby for sure.”

callout arrowLegend

Buford City School Board President Phillip Beard during an August 2018 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (HYOSUB SHIN/[email protected])

Buford City School Board President Phillip Beard during an August 2018 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  (HYOSUB SHIN/hshin@ajc.com)
callout arrowLegend

Buford City School Board President Phillip Beard during an August 2018 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (HYOSUB SHIN/[email protected])

Beard backed down during his pretrial deposition. “I don’t know if it’s him or not,” Beard said. “It looks like him.”

University of Montana professor Al Yonoitz, an audio expert used by Ingram’s attorneys, said there was no sign the recordings had been altered. He said the likelihood that the person making the remarks was someone other than Hamby was “extremely low, maybe less than 10 per cent”.

Jeremy S. McLain