Goshen News, Goshen, IN

April 5, 2013

Campaign to ditch 'R-Word' growing at Goshen High School


GOSHEN —  Students in Jen Kalb’s Basic Skills Development/Job Skills classes held their third annual Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign at Goshen High School.

This campaign was started in 2009 by two college students (one from Notre Dame) as a way to spread awareness to stop the use of the word “retard” in everyday speech. It has since become an international event, with the first Wednesday of March dedicated as the national awareness day. According to organizers, in 2010, President Barack Obama signed Rosa’s Law, which removes the term “mental retardation” from federal policies and replaces it with people first language. Over the years, the word “retard” has evolved into a slang word used extensively to depict someone as “dumb” or “stupid.” The use of the word in this way is degrading to those with disabilities and their families.

Organizers said the goal of the campaign is to make everyone aware that the r-word is no longer acceptable in any form. People can pledge to no longer use the term by signing up online at www.r-word.org or by attending one of the hundred’s of events nationwide.

When Goshen High School held its first campaign, the students had a three-foot banner they could sign their name to. That first year only a couple hundred of signatures were collected. The event has grown into a schoolwide campaign since then, with this year’s banner measuring 12-feet long and having 650 signatures.

“I’ve noticed a big change in the hallways since we started this campaign three years ago. I used to hear the word all the time, which was upsetting to me as a special needs teacher and as a mother of two young children with multiple disabilities,” said Jen Kalb. “Now I rarely hear the term, and when a student does let it slip there are usually immediate responses from surrounding students correcting him or her. I’m really proud of how the student body has taken ownership in the awareness and continue to demonstrate their pledges every day!”