GCHS history teacher recorded insulting student
Greene County High School 11th grader Shaniaya Hunter is working with Attorney Ben Windham to regain in hopes for feeling safe in school again. Pictured, from left, Christie Lockhart, Shaniaya Hunter’s aunt, Ben Windham, attorney, Shaniaya Hunter and Cathy Wright, Shaniaya Hunter’s mother.
A Greene County High School 11th grader said she is scared to return to school after her U.S. History teacher Cory Hunter insulted her in front of her entire class.
Shaniaya Hunter (no relation to Cory Hunter) was video-recording a slide show presentation in class Dec. 14, 2015 when she asked her teacher to repeat the name of someone he was lecturing about. Without answering her question, Cory Hunter started insulting her intelligence.
“You know, you are the dumbest girl I’ve ever met in my life and I have been around 37 years and clearly you are the dumbest girl I have ever met,” Cory Hunter is heard saying in the audio recording provided by Attorney Ben Windham. Listen to the full recording below. Warning: explicit content.
Audio recording provided by Attorney Ben Windham.
“You know what your purpose is going to be? To have sex and have children because you aint ever gonna be smart,” Cory Hunter went on to say in the recording.
Cory Hunter has said things similar to the recording to her since September, 2015, Shaniaya Hunter said.
Shaniaya Hunter suffers from an eye condition known as retinal detachment and retinal holes. She underwent eye surgery in January in Atlanta. After healing from the surgery, she said, she was scared to go back to school in fear of what Cory Hunter might say to her.
Shaniaya Hunter is a life-long resident of Greene County and has attended Greene County Schools for all of her education thus far. She is a member of DECA, a business and marketing organization at the school, an A/B student and has only had one disciplinary action, which was in the fifth grade, she said. She plans to attend college after graduation to pursue a career in the medical field.
Cory Hunter is a native of Sylvester and graduated from Albany State in 2001. He started his teaching and coaching career in Taliaferro County two years later. He joined the GCHS staff in 2011 as a world history and credit recovery teacher. He is also the varsity boys basketball head coach.
School system’s response
When Shaniaya Hunter’s mother, Cathy Wright, and aunt, Christie Lockhart, heard the classroom recording they reached out to the school system for help. Greene County School System Assistant Superintendent Rotonya Rhodes was serving in the superintendent role at that time.
Rhodes assured Wright and Lockhart that the situation would be handled properly. Since then, they are unsure what disciplinary action has been taken.
“They promote children not bullying each other and respecting each other, but here is the man that y’all have given authority over these kids to who’s the biggest bully of them all,” Lockhart said. “Usually with bullies they get kicked out of school, are expelled or some type of situation, but it’s like its okay you (Cory Hunter) can keep bullying because you’re in charge.”
Interim GCSS Superintendent Chris Houston said he is unable to comment on pending litigation and personnel matters Monday afternoon.
He did say, however, Cory Hunter has not been suspended, terminated or resigned during his time with the school system. Houston was named interim superintendent Jan. 19 after Philip Mellor’s contract dissolution two weeks earlier.
“With it being a legal matter, some things are contemplated before you act on them,” he said. “It would be fair to say that things are being considered.”
Houston said the school system typically follows a set process when complaints are made, which includes a fact-finding inquiry. Once it is determined if a rule, policy, procedure or law was actually violated the allotted protocol will follow.
“Again I’m new, so what they’ve done in the past and what I’ll do in the future might be two different things,” he said.
Shaniaya Hunter said the school has offered to let her take her U.S. history class online, but she does not feel like she can learn through that program.
Legal action started
Shaniaya Hunter’s aunt was referred to Trial Attorney Ben Windham, who has decided to take this case pro-bono.
“To be honest, I really want to be done with his class so I do not have to see his face again,” Shaniaya Hunter said. “I hope that in my senior year I do not have to walk into school and see his face again. I really hope so. My little sister is in the ninth grade. I don’t want her to go to her class and him say stuff like that to her.”
Windham sent certified letters to Cory Hunter, Houston, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, Office of the Governor and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Feb. 22 demanding Cory Hunter’s resignation and surrender of his teaching certificate in the state. As of Tuesday morning, he had not received a response to the letters.
“There’s just no grey area here,” Windham said. “They want to come up with options for her, look, there’s one really good option and that’s to make sure this man never teaches much less in Georgia, but any state."
Windham said he plans on suing Cory Hunter for injury to peace, feelings and happiness if action is not taken by the school system.
Windham has an office in Locust Grove and Greensboro.
Dealing with the ridicule
Shaniaya Hunter said she finds herself thinking about the things Cory Hunter said to her on a regular basis.
“Sometimes when I’m day dreaming, the exact words that came out his mouth that he said about me, I hear it in my head and my eyes will get teary,” she said.
“Knowing that (Shaniaya Hunter) comes from a low-income family, you would think that those are the people you would target to try to lift up,” Lockhart said. “Those are the kids that you want to gather up to motivate to say,‘okay let me help you rise above you situation.’”
Lockhart said, as an adult, she still struggles to ignore insults said by others.
“I can imagine when she gets older and she does get ready to become a mom or want a family, even then I can see her thinking back to that moment and what that man said,” she said.