Student, family upset after Underground Railroad simulation at suburban school

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. -- Monday’s school board meeting was the first time people could tell the board how they felt about a middle school trip that included an Underground Railroad simulation after a student and her family complained.

Parents, students and teachers packed the junior high gym in suburban South Holland Monday evening to discuss the simulation.

The simulation has been a tradition at the school for about 10 years but this year at least one student said children felt funny about the simulation, while the crowd seemed pretty split on the activity, they all agreed the school should have better informed parents about what was about to happen.

The board did not answer any questions, instead they just listened to more than a couple dozen people tell them their thoughts about the trip. Which costs about $400 and takes place over four days at a camp in Wisconsin.

The McKinley Junior High teachers who led the Underground Railroad simulation spoke Monday night and defended the educational aspect of the activity. They said it was meant to spark and emotion in the students while teaching them about what runaway slaves had to go through, which included hiding and dealing with bounty hunters.

The activity takes place at night and some parents just said this is not the way to teach this. While some teens that went through the simulation spoke about how important it was to them.

This all started when 11-year-old Baily Peterson told her mother and father it didn’t sit right with her. Both Baily’s parents want this to be the last year for the simulation.

“Let me be clear. Ain’t nobody paying to let their kids play slaves and treated as such and to think anybody believe that is insane,” Bobby Rogers, Baily’s father, said.

“This was one of the best experiences I’ve had. I hate to see that taken away,” Michael Summerville, a freshman, said.

The teachers said the activity is being mischaracterized.