Retire the ‘R’ Word

I don’t use it, and you shouldn’t either. #FB

The R-word: Evanston High School students fight the R-word –

Evanston Township High School senior Megan McCareins wants to stamp out the R-word as she and others try to change how fellow students talk and think about people with intellectual difficulties.

McCareins and a handful of students recently gathered more than 3,000 signatures from students and staff, who pledged to stop using the words “retard” or “retarded” as an offhanded insult or in a derogatory manor.

“Hopefully this campaign will mean people will always be thinking about their choice of language,” McCareins said.

Evanston Township was one of 75 schools, colleges and universities across the state that took part last month in the “Spread the Word to End the ‘R’ Word Day” campaign, said teacher Leslie Wenzel.

The campaign is designed to bring awareness that using such words is hurtful to people with disabilities and those who love them, said Wenzel, whose students have cognitive disabilities and receive special education services.

The flippant use of such language perpetuates prejudice and discrimination and can be as cruel and offensive as any other slur or hate speech, she said.

“The bottom line of this campaign is that calling people names is the lowest form of communication,” Wenzel said. “We want people to do better with their language.”

The Spread the Word campaign is supported by a worldwide organization called Best Buddies, founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver in 1989. It pairs disabled middle and high school students with non-disabled students for mentoring and friendship, said Stephanie Lerner, a senior program manager with Best Buddies in Chicago.

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