School district: Musical with racial slur will be performed

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (WPVI) -- A New Jersey high school will allow students to utter racial slurs during performances of "Ragtime."

Cherry Hill school district officials said in a letter Friday that after much discussion the musical will go on as written, including the slurs.

Superintendent Joseph Meloche said officials will make it clear that they "loathe the N-word."

"These are tumultuous, difficult times," he wrote. "We believe that while these difficult times provide challenges in our educational community, they also provide an opportunity and an obligation to educate."

Officials had planned to remove the word from the show due to debut March 10 at Cherry Hill High School East, following complaints from a parent and civil rights groups. They also said disparaging lines from the musical targeting other ethnic groups also would be removed.

But that was met with resistance by students and community members of all races who say it would be wrong to sanitize the show.

They argued it's an accurate portrayal of the racist attitudes that many people held in the early 20th century, when the Tony Award-winning musical is set. Some Broadway actors and arts groups agree with that argument.

The issue was the focus of a lengthy public meeting Tuesday attended by about 100 people.

Officials have noted that if the script is altered in any way, the agency that licenses the musical will likely rescind its permission for the district to perform the show, which is based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow and includes themes of racism, intolerance and injustice.
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