A Central High School teacher was suspended for asking students an offensive question on a vocabulary test.
The Phenix City Board of Education took undisclosed disciplinary action during its March meeting, but it became public Thursday when a student’s sister posted it on social media.
The question, according to the image attached to the Facebook post, was No. 20 in a fill-in-the-blank vocabulary test:
“20. Though deadbeat dads exist in every people group, it is an _____ within the African American population.”
Phenix City superintendent Randy Wilkes declined to answer the Ledger-Enquirer’s questions about the controversy, including for how long the teacher was suspended. Instead, his secretary emailed the Ledger-Enquirer the following statement from the teacher, Barak Williams, who is white and still is listed on Central’s website as an English teacher:
“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.”
The post that made this controversy go public was on the Facebook page of Kalah Ozimba, who lists her occupation as a research assistant at Howard University after attending Central.
Ozimba wrote that Williams “apologized to her class the next day and that was the end of that. I can’t say what her consequences were because the school refused to tell me. I think this should be a lesson to all of us. Think logically before you post/write/or say something. And when you make a mistake handle it correctly the first time. Had the school sent home a formal apology and let us know that they were handling it. This post would probably would have never been made. I say this all the time to people “TRANSPARENCY IS KEY” let people know what’s going on and keep them informed. It helps to avoid so many problems. Also for the people saying this is old....... for my sister to bring it up yesterday means that she and other students feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know there was a statue of limitations on ignorance.”
Williams, whose maiden name is Ingram, has taught since January 2014 at Central and earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary education and teaching from Auburn University in 2013, according to her LinkedIn page. She graduated from Central and was dually enrolled at Chattahoochee Valley Community College, according to a 2010 article on CVCC’s website. The Way Church in Smiths Station lists her as a worship leader.