An event scheduled for tomorrow aims to eliminate the use of the word “retarded” from students’ vocabularies.
The event, called “Spread the Word, End the R-Word,” will start at 12 p.m. at Earl Stanley Gardner Middle School. It's open to the public.
The event aims to encourage acceptance of special needs students and to “completely eradicate the use of the word ‘retard’ and any derivative,” said Patricia Mathis, the school’s assistant principal.
The event will include music, events and a poster signing. The first 150 children to sign one of the posters placed around the campus will get either a button or a wristband.
The use of the word is a problem on the campus, Mathis said. “They use it in a demeaning way when you and I would say ‘stupid,’” she said. “You very rarely heard that word after last year’s campaign.”
Special needs students and the rest of the population mingle during lunch, breaks and passing periods, unlike some school where they are separated. During these periods, special needs students hear other students using the word. “It’s very hurtful to them,” Mathis said.
The event is part of the school’s efforts to increase acceptance for special needs students. “The overall goal of the program is to demystify special needs students and their handicaps,” Mathis said.
The school’s “peer buddy” program is another program with the same goal. It has special needs students partner with children from the general population to work on various skills.
School officials are selective about who they accept into the program, Mathis said. “To become a peer buddy, you have to apply, and we turn people away,” she said.
The program works wonders, she said. “There are kids who ask their parents to drop them off early to help the special needs students off the bus.”