Virginia school under fire after students instructed to play ‘runaway slave game'

An African American history lesson at school in Northern Virginia is generating backlash after students were instructed to role play as slaves on the Underground Railroad.

The Underground Railroad or “runaway slave game” as some have called it happened at Madison's Trust Elementary School in Ashburn in early February.

Loudoun County Public Schools confirms that 3rd, 4th and 5th graders were divided into groups and pretended to be slaves on the Underground Railroad in an obstacle course during gym class.

FOX 5 was told it was not an approved curriculum and should have never been taught in the first place.

Parent complaints forced the school's principal to apologize in a letter to parents, which read in part," The lesson was culturally insensitive to our students and families. I extend my sincerest apology to our students and school community."

The school district said the underlying history was retaught in a sensitive manner.

“You have three teachers and an administrator who failed to see the racism in this exercise. That's startling,” Pastor Michelle Thomas with the Loudoun County NAACP told FOX 5. “There are three things that really jump out to me. Willful ignorance, white privilege or intentional racism and those are scary thoughts.”

Thomas says the NAACP is working with the district to institute a plan to prevent incidents like this in the future, including implicit bias training for staff.

The school district wouldn't say if the employees involved were facing discipline and called it a personnel matter that it wouldn’t discuss.