New Jersey Secretary of State Regena L. Thomas has apologized to students at a Roman Catholic school for remarks made in a speech this month.
Ms. Thomas, who is black, gave a speech on diversity to 9th and 10th graders at Paul VI High School in Haddonfield on March 7. The address was part of the state-sponsored “V-Free” program, designed to keep “violence, vandalism, and victimization” out of schools.
Andrew Walton, a spokesman for the 20,000-student Diocese of Camden, which operates the school, said students “felt it was implicitly or explicitly blaming the students for the pain she has felt in the past, or in the present, that somehow all white people or all the students in this school were somehow responsible for the pain of African-Americans.”
Ms. Thomas apologized in a March 16 letter to the principal of the school, where about 12 percent of the students are nonwhite. The speech was intended to highlight the importance of diversity, personal responsibility, and respect for others, she said in a March 15 statement.
“It was never meant to be personal or critical of the students or the school. I deeply regret if anyone mistook my intentions and took offense,” she said.
Her spokeswoman would not elaborate on what Ms. Thomas said.