Shaniaya Hunter, a student at Greene County High School, is fighting for the school district to fire a teacher who was recorded telling Shaniaya, “I have been around for 37 years and clearly you are the dumbest girl that I have ever met.” (courtesy of Channel 2 Action News)
Photo: Channel 2 Action News
Photo: Channel 2 Action News

Family fights to oust teacher who called student ‘dumbest girl’

A high school student’s lawyer is giving the Greene County School System until 5 p.m. Friday to fire a teacher who was recorded calling that student “the dumbest girl (he had) ever met.”

The lawyer, Ben Windham, who represents student Shaniaya Hunter, said if Greene County High School teacher Cory Hunter is not fired, he will file a petition in Greene County Superior Court to force the superintendent’s hand and file a separate lawsuit against the teacher.

“Dealing with (the Greene County school district) has been like dealing with an ostrich with his head in the sand,” Windham said Tuesday. The county is 77 miles east of Atlanta via I-20.

At the time of the incident in early December 2015, Cory Hunter (no relation to Shaniaya Hunter) was a history teacher and the head coach of the boys’ varsity basketball team.

School district officials would not comment Tuesday on Hunter’s current status as an employee, and calls to several school board members were not returned. So roughly three months after the incident, it is unclear whether the teacher has faced any disciplinary action.

“Federal and state law place substantial limits on what a school district can publicly say regarding individual student matters or certain personnel issues,” interim school superintendent Chris Houston said in a statement. “… It is also the practice of the Greene County School System not to deal with individuals, students or employees through the media.”

Instead, Shaniaya Hunter’s family is talking.

They have an audio recording of Cory Hunter in which the teacher can be heard calling the 16-year-old Shaniaya dumb and suggesting that her only future worth will be making babies.

“I am shocked that nothing has happened to him,” said Shaniaya’s aunt, Christie Lockhart. “But considering I have had several grievances against the school myself and nothing ever gets done, I am not surprised.”

How The Recording Came To Be

In December, Shaniaya Hunter was in class, recording a history lecture on her iPad. She had been in and out of school for most of the year dealing with health issues — a detached retina in one eye and holes in the retina of the other eye.

Because she has problems seeing the blackboard and wanted to catch up on lost work, she taped the lecture and presentation.

In a four-minute tape provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cory Hunter talks about slavery and abolitionists, and mentions Sojourner Truth.

Shaniaya Hunter can be heard on the recording asking, “Who?”

After a pause, Cory Hunter replies: “You know what? You might be the dumbest girl I’ve ever met in my life and I have been around for 37 years and clearly you are the dumbest girl that I have ever met.”

Expletives And Sexual Comments

Over the course of the next few minutes, as students laugh in the background, Cory Hunter says to Shaniaya Hunter: “You know what your purpose gonna be? To have sex and have children because you ain’t never gonna be smart.”

Cory Hunter goes on to ridicule Shaniaya Hunter’s vision, and questions whether she can even see the iPad. He tells her to get married and change her last name.

A student asks the teacher if he and Shaniaya are “kin.”

Cory Hunter responds with an expletive: “S—t no.”

The recording ends after the teacher rants about having sex with several women on a desert island.

‘Don’t Believe Anyone’s Been Fired’

Shaniaya Hunter and her relatives said Cory Hunter had been saying similar things at least since school started in September 2015.

“He would get up in class the first day and tell the students that if they didn’t want to be talked about, then get out of his class,” said Lockhart, whose daughter played basketball for Cory Hunter several years ago and reported the coach’s behavior.

Windham said he wrote a letter to interim superintendent Houston on Feb. 22 demanding that he fire Cory Hunter. That same day, he sent Hunter a letter demanding that he resign and surrender his teaching license.

Windham followed up on Feb. 24 with a series of letters to the governor’s office, several state agencies, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), calling for action.

“But I don’t believe anyone has been fired,” Windham said Tuesday.

Tears, Taunts And Threats

As for Shaniaya, she only recently returned to school and underwent eye surgery in January, said her mother, Cathy Wright.

“She sticks to herself now,” Wright said. “She cries a lot because it is still in her head. And now things have turned to bullying.”

Lockhart said she had to visit the school on Monday after an altercation between Shaniaya and another student. And Wright has made her daughter get off social media because of taunts and threats.

According to a 2012 press release announcing his appointment as head basketball coach, Cory Hunter is a 2001 graduate of Albany State University and moved to Greene County in 2011 to teach history and coach the girls’ basketball team.

“My goals are to continue to meet the expectations of Greene County … and hopefully put more championship banners on our wall,” Cory Hunter said at the time of his hiring.

His basketball team had 10 wins and 17 losses this past season.

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