Have you ever used the word “retarded” as a joke with your friends? It’s become common that this word is misused and used as an insult. Many schools have begun a campaign to stop this hurtful word and among these is Manhasset, hoping to make a difference.
Manhasset has many programs to help students with Down Syndrome, dyslexia, or autism spectrum disorders. Manhasset Secondary School is doing its best to stop the use of this hurtful word. In the main hallway, a fun and colorful poster hangs. The message covered by puzzle pieces reads, “I promise to spread the word to end the word.” Many students and teachers signed their names on puzzle pieces, promising to make an effort to end the word.
All across America, supporters of people with special needs have joined the crusade to end the r-word. In scientific history, “retarded” or ‘mental retardation” were among many other words used to describe someone with intellectual disability. Over time, these words evolved from a basic, scientific term, into a very hurtful insult. Kids began using it to describe someone who is stupid or idiotic. However, it started offending special needs people and their parents and friends. Many uninformed people have continued to use this word regularly, even though it is hurtful to many.
Before it gained a negative connotation, the r-word was used scientifically and medically. However, people began to twist it into a word that became very offensive and rude. Soon, the minor problem sprawled into a disaster. This word was used so often that it became a normality. There was even a movement formed during the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games to end the use of the r-word. In January of 2010, the Wall Street Journal criticized White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, for using this word. Once reform-hungry Americans realized their dreams of change had become reality, the slogan, “Spread the Word to End the Word”, began to catch on.
Several students at Manhasset High are against using this word.
“I think it’s wrong. I think it’s disrespectful,” said Kyra Balacek, a freshman, who worked with her special needs peers during elementary school through the CAPP program.
Another passionate freshman, Ali McIntyre, commented, “Saying the word is mean and we should stop doing it.”
Manhasset hopes that all of its students will support this movement. Other schools have caught on just like Manhasset, and slowly but surely, change is coming. The crusade against the r-word has been successful so far, and as it continues to develop, hopefully the use of this word will decline, making the world more sympathetic and kind.