CHERRY HILL — The principal of a New Jersey high school has apologized for what he called "insensitive" language on tickets for the upcoming senior prom.

The Courier Post reported the Cherry Hill High School East senior prom tickets urged students to "party like it's 1776" during the event at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center.

Principal Dennis Perry said in a letter to the community posted on his Twitter account Friday that some people were offended, and he wanted to apologize "for the hurt feelings this reference caused for members of our school family."

"It was insensitive and irresponsible not to appreciate that not all communities can celebrate what life was like in 1776," Perry said.

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He said he especially wanted to apologize to black students "who I have let down by not initially recognizing the inappropriateness of this wording."

Perry said prom attendees will not be asked to present the tickets and will receive commemorative tickets without the language.

Danny Elmore, vice president of the Cherry Hill African American Civic Association, told the paper that he believed the principal handled the situation well.

But Elmore also called for increased awareness of cultural diversity, noting an uproar last year when the school staged "Ragtime," a musical that included a racial slur.

"Talk about it with people before you take an action and we won't have this happen," Elmore said.

Lloyd Henderson, president of the Camden County NAACP East chapter, also praised the principal's immediate response but called the incident "another example" of a school culture in which "the African American students' needs are not considered along with the rest of the school."

The latest New Jersey School Report Card indicates that black youths represented 6.2 percent of East's student body, compared to 62.2 percent for whites, 22.4 percent for Asians and 5.9 percent share for Hispanics.

In future, Perry said, safeguards would be instituted "to ensure that a diverse group of people view all information before it is distributed from the school."

"I would like to thank members of our school community for their caring and thoughtful conversation while discussing this sensitive issue," he said.

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