On Wednesday, fourth, fifth and sixth graders and Woodrow Wilson had the opportunity to pledge to eliminate derogatory use of the words retard and retarded from their language.
The “Spread the Word to End the Word” is a campaign taking place across the country and was created to spread awareness about the consideration of people with intellectual disabilities. It is sponsored by two organizations, Special Olympics and Best Buddies.
“’Spred the Word to End the Word’ is a movement to educate all people, including students, about the appropriate people first language and about using the appropriate language for people with intellectual disabilities,” Woodrow Wilson Success Coach Valerie Steinbach said. “We think it’s important to start at any age, but especially elementary age.”
Many students took time out of their lunch to sign the pledge poster. Not only were many willing to pledge, but some had personal experiences in which they were effected by derogatory words by their classmates.
“There was this girl in my class, and there were kids in my class making fun of her behind her back, saying that she was ‘stupid’ and ‘retarded.’ I walked up and told them that she’s no different than us, she’s just like us,” Woodrow Wilson student Isabelle Gonzales said. “I didn’t want them to treat her any differently.”
Another student had witnessed negative language used outside of the classroom that affected her uncle.
“I have an uncle with intellectual disabilities, and one time I heard someone refer to him as a ‘retard.’ He heard it too, and he has feelings too. He’s no different than any of us,” Courtney Yoakum said.
The students also made a video about the issue and have participated in discussions in their classroom on the topic.
“It’s important for the kids to believe in something and really feel like they can stand behind it,” Steinbach said.