Thursday, March 13, 2014
The word “retard” means to hinder, delay or slow, but more often is used in a negative way to describe something as stupid — in a way defined in Webster’s New World College Dictionary as, “[slang] a) a retarded person (an offensive term of contempt).”
Student leaders at Fulton Middle School are working to change that by promoting the national Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.
“While mental retardation is not a bad word, when used to describe someone or something you think is bad or stupid, it becomes another thoughtless, hurtful word,” the Fulton Middle School Student Council wrote in an letter to the Fulton Sun. “FMS Student Council would like to invite others in taking the pledge to ban the r-word. Make your new r-word respect.”
The student council kicked off its campaign during the school assembly Wednesday afternoon by inviting Taylor Oestreich, a Fulton graduate currently pursuing his education degree at William Woods University, who has been volunteering with Special Olympics since he was a sophomore in high school.
“I wrote this to share the benefits of having a good attitude and being nice, as well as on behalf of Spreading the Word to End the Word campaign — this campaign asks people to pledge to stop using the ‘r-word’ as a starting point to creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people,” Oestreich said. “Language affects attitudes, and attitudes affect actions … the only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
He went on to tell students there are four benefits to being nice: making a lot of friends, always being able to get help when needed, feeling good about yourself and boosting your self confidence. He added “three simple ways” to be nice: smile, acknowledge others and give compliments.
“Be positive in what you have to say, treat others how you want to be treated, think before you speak, be nice, have a great attitude and get rid of saying the ‘r-word’ as well as other hurtful words,” Oestreich continued.
The student council also has created a Ban the R-word spirit week March 17-21. Monday is PJ Day — Put offensive language to rest; Tuesday is beach day — Send hurtful language sailing; Wednesday is fake an injury day — Don’t injure others with hurtful language; Thursday is super hero day — You have the power to block out offensive language and Friday is Black-out day — Black out the R-word.
Student Council President Tucker Caswell said the organization chose to promote the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign because “it’s just an important problem a lot of people have to deal with.”
“People don’t always know it can hurt people,” Caswell said. “Some people have intellectual disabilities, and if you use that word in a mean way it can really hurt them — they don’t understand it.
“I just hope we can cause students to realize they need to watch what they say a bit more, and think about what they say.”
Fellow student council member Lexi Begemann’s reasoning for choosing to participate in Spread the Word was the same as Caswell’s.
“I hope the other students learn that it’s not something to joke about — they don’t realize how much it can hurt the people that have it,” Begemann said. “We’re having the assembly so everyone can learn about it, and spirit week is so they can see that even while we’re trying to end the word, we can still have fun while we’re doing it.”
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