“Deadbeat dads” question on Central High School quiz sparks controversy

Alabama Sports

Phenix City residents react to News 3 on Friday after a Facebook photo of a Central High School quiz question went viral.

The post, which has close to 200 shares in less than 24 hours, shows the vocabulary question which reads: “20. Though deadbeat dads exist in every people group, it is an ____ within the African American population.”

Students’ family members confirm to WRBL the question was written by sophomore English teacher Barak Williams.

“I was even more surprised when I realized the intended word to go in the blank was ‘endemic’,” says one man who, off-camera, spoke exclusively with News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton. “To suggest that ‘deadbeat dads’ is a condition that applies specifically to the African-American race, that’s extremely hateful, and it’s ignorant.”

He goes on to say he was shocked for an English teacher to choose such a term.

“It would have been one thing if she wrote ‘absentee fathers’. That’s still not right, but when you say ‘deadbeat dads’, that’s a derogatory term. The offense is implied, definitely,” he says. “I find it incredibly irresponsible for an educator to put that down for students who may not even realize the severity of what they just answered.”

News 3’s media partner The Ledger-Enquirer reports Williams was suspended after the quiz was issued back in March. She also released a statement which reads:

“It was almost immediately brought to my attention after the test by one of my students that the question caused hurt, so I began the next day with a sincere apology to every student that I teach,” Williams wrote. “I apologized to my students for writing a question that was inappropriate and offensive. The test item was thrown out. At the end of the school day, I was contacted by the PCBOE (Phenix City Board of Education), and after a discussion, I was made aware that punishment was in the works. At the March board meeting, the board decided that I would be suspended without pay. …

“There has not been a day since that I haven’t felt the full repercussions of my statement. As I look into the faces of my students, I am extremely ashamed. My students have demonstrated to me what it means to truly forgive. Again, I am so sorry for the hurt and anguish my choice of words has caused.”

-Barak Williams

Family members of other students tell News 3 the suspension only lasted a few days and they remain upset that the school district never issued a formal apology. 

The man who interviewed with WRBL says his main concern isn’t punishing Mrs. Williams.

“For me this isn’t really about punishing the teacher specifically for what she did. It’s more about just making people aware that type of thought process has no place in our society and especially not in schools where students are being educated for the future.”

News 3 also reached out to the Phenix City School District for a response to the incident and ongoing complaints, but our station has yet to receive a response.

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