The Special Olympics and Best Buddies are asking everyone to join them in eliminating the R-word from our vocabulary during their “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign. You may have seen the T-shirts worn by administrators, staff and teachers across the district on Wednesday, the kick-off day for the national campaign.
“The R-word is the word ‘retard(ed)’,” according to the website www.r-word.org. “Why does it hurt? The R-word hurts because it is exclusive. It’s offensive. It’s derogatory.”
The campaign asks people to pledge to stop saying the R-word as a starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities. The website features videos and stories of experiences with the r-word, some heartwarming and some equally heartbreaking . As of 1:00 PM Wednesday, almost 750,000 people had taken the online pledge.
At Des Moines Public Schools, the school district educates more than 5,000 students who have Individual Education Plans (IEP) in a variety of schools and programs. Special education teachers, Early ACCESS teachers, psychologists, social workers, special education consultants, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists are provided through Student & Family Services to meet the unique needs of individual students. Students range in age from infant to 21 years.
From principals meetings to school cafeterias, administrators, staff and students showed their willingness to join the cause, wearing t-shirts that read, “Spread the Word to End the R-Word” and “Respect is my R-Word”. For example, at Hiatt Middle School, students signed a banner during the lunch period to show their support as students with disabilities joined their peers to hand out wristbands promoting compassionate use of language and ending the use of hurtful words. Merrill Middle School also had a banner on display in their lobby throughout the school day which students signed to show their commitment to “ed the word.” At McCombs Middle School, in addition to signing a banner, a “friendly” dodgeball game between students and staff served as a lesson in kindness. And at an afternoon meeting of the school district’s principals, each wore a t-shirt from the campaign provided to them by members of our special education team.
As r-word.org says, “Language affects attitudes and attitudes affect actions. Pledge today to use respectful, people-first language.”