Massachusetts education officials have decided on the unusual step of not scoring 10th grade students on a statewide exam question that some considered racially insensitive.

The Boston Globe reports that the essay question on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam was based on a passage from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Underground Railroad." Students were asked to write an essay from the perspective of a white woman who's conflicted about helping an escaped slave and uses derogatory language toward her.

Students complained that they were put in the uncomfortable position of either using racist language or sacrificing historical accuracy. The Massachusetts Teachers Association objected to the MCAS question. The organization says answering it could be especially traumatic for African American students.

State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley says the question was intended to challenge students, but he fully understands the concerns.