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May 21, 2018

N.J. principal apologizes to black students for 1776 prom theme

Cherry Hill East Principal Dennis Perry called the decision 'insensitive and irresponsible'

Education Race
Carroll - US Constitution Draft Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The first printed draft of the U.S. Constitution was published by Jacob Broom and distributed to each of the delegates attending the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.

A New Jersey principal has apologized for offending some students with the language used on their prom tickets.

Principal Dennis Perry wrote that he was particularly sorry to black students for the tickets in a letter to the Cherry Hill High School East community Friday. The tickets told students to "party like it's 1776."

"It was insensitive and irresponsible not to appreciate that not all communities can celebrate what life was like in 1776," Perry wrote. "I especially apologize to our African American students, whom I have let down by not initially recognizing the inappropriateness of this wording."

According to the Courier Post, the reference to the year the United States declared independence from England was included because the school's prom is being held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on May 31.

Perry's letter didn't mention slavery specifically, but as the Courier Post noted, African Americans remained enslaved in New Jersey into the 19th century.

Perry wrote that students won't have to bring their tickets to get into prom since they already have a record of those who has purchased tickets. He added that students will receive a new commemorative ticket with a different design.

From now on, "safeguards" will be put in place so that a diverse group of people view information before it's distributed by the school, Perry wrote.

Last year, controversy erupted at Cherry Hill East when school officials announced students would perform the musical "Ragtime" without using racial slurs written in the script.

Some complained that doing so would sanitize the production, which is about the immigrant experience in America during the 20th century. Officials ultimately decided to perform the musical as written, including the slurs.