MAHOMET — People all over the country are taking a stand today against an offensive word. Hundreds of thousands have promised to not use the word “retarded” any more. That includes many in central Illinois.
Some high school students are stepping up for their classmates. They see students with special needs in their classes and they want to make sure those kids don’t feel hurt by the language they use. So on Wednesday, they all took the pledge to spread the word to end the word.
The high school years can be a tough time for anyone, but even more so for some. Andrew Moseley is a junior at Mahomet-Seymour High. He has special needs. One of his teachers says they’re trying to make connections between him and other students, so he doesn’t feel so different.
“We’re just trying to promote respect and a more inclusive community by doing that,” said Katie Wilkie, who is a support services teacher.
This week, they’re joining a national movement to encourage people to pay closer attention to the words they use. That includes not using a certain “r” word.
“I just think the ‘r’ word is used too commonly for things it shouldn’t be and a lot of us aren’t exposed to its effects,” said Audrey McNamara, who is a sophomore at Mahomet-Seymour High.
They set up a table so people could sign the pledge. Student council members like McNamara say they see the value in being around people who aren’t just like them.
“I think it opens our minds to a lot of different possibilities in the world and different people and how everyone else is living around us and not so self-centered,” said McNamara.
“I think it’s important for students, both with and without disabilities, to understand how that word impacts not only individuals with disabilities but their families, their friends, the people who work with them,” said Wilkie. “I think it’s important that they are the ones advocating for that alongside their peers.”
Even though it was just a lunchtime effort, organizers hope this inclusive spirit will last much longer. Wilkie says they’re trying to promote first person language. That means instead of calling someone a disabled person, you’d say it’s a person with a disability.
This campaign asks people to stop saying the ‘r’ word to help create a better atmosphere for everyone. Organizers say language can affect attitudes and actions. That’s why it’s so important to watch what you say. To find out more about the effort, click here.