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Can teachers joke about how dumb students are? Can they joke at all?

I can be a smart aleck -- or so said the nuns who taught me in high school. I restrained that impulse when I taught college classes. I figured out quickly some students are uncomfortable with humor so I avoided quips that could be misinterpreted or perceived as a personal dig.

I wish I could give Greene County history teacher Cory Hunter the benefit of the doubt as I'd prefer to think his outrageous comments were a poor attempt at humor rather than abject cruelty.

But there is no doubt Cory Hunter crossed a dangerous line when he told a 16-year-old student in December, "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."

If that wasn't inappropriate enough, Cory Hunter then told Shaniaya Hunter, "You know what your purpose gonna be? To have sex and have children because you ain't never gonna be smart." (The student and teacher are not related.)

In a story, AJC reporter Ernie Suggs said Cory Hunter was known as a joker.  Suggs reports, " the beginning of each school year, he makes a peculiar announcement: "He says, 'I like to joke, so if you can't handle that, get out.'"

Now, Hunter is out. He resigned Monday night.

Suggs visited Greene County and wrote a story for on the community's reaction to the teacher's comments, which were recorded and heard around the world. Shaniaya Hunter had been recording the history lecture on her iPad because ongoing retina problems made it hard for her to see the blackboard.

The release of Cory Hunter's comments has sparked criticism of him and the district for not immediately firing him from all corners of the world. "Nasty bully...caught out by quick thinking of one of his victims. Guess she's smarter than him! Technology is great isn't it," wrote a United Kingdom reader in the Daily Mail.

But Cory Hunter has supporters in his corner:

Last Friday, Reid's Haircare was as busy as you would expect a salon to be going into the weekend. Vickie Cosby, the shop's longtime owner, took a needed break from doing someone's hair to weigh in on the controversy.

"I think we are getting a one-sided story and not hearing everything, " Cosby said. "It is a very unfortunate incident and I feel bad about it. But if they lose Cory, they will be losing a great teacher. I like Cory."

"It certainly was wrong, but at the end of the day he should not be fired, " said Lillie Tripp, the pastor of Apostolic Faith Kingdom Life Fellowship Ministry in Hancock County. "His comments were wrong, but something had to (have) happen(ed) before she pressed record."

But Katrina Breeding, a local attorney who was one of the first black students to integrate Greene County High School in the 1960s, isn't buying it. "I am trying to figure out a delicate way to say this. But for historical reasons, we as blacks feel compelled to support people who look like us because we have been denied so much. It goes back to slavery and being oppressed, " Breeding said. "But he needed to be fired and it should have happened sooner. If not for social media, the press and the attorney, it would not have happened."


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.