This post was written by Joe Siegel:
On March 31, thousands of people from across the country and across the world made the decision to make a commitment to eliminate the “R” word from the English Language. Public awareness campaigns nationwide were conducted to eliminate this dehumanizing word from our language. In Massachusetts we are proud that a number of local programs, schools systems, athletes, and citizens decided to choose acceptance and respect as opposed to cruelty in making their pledge to end the use of the word “retard.”
In Malden under the leadership of Principal Dana Brown, Special Olympics Massachusetts, over 100 students including Varsity athletes, honor students, special needs students, Special Olympics athletes, cheer leaders, faculty, and family members conducted a Town Meeting to discuss not only how and why people use labeling language that is cruel, but brainstormed ways people can show their disapproval to ways people can model positive behaviors. In the end, over 100 students dressed in their “Spread the Word to End the Word T Shirts” took the online pledge and left the Town Meeting, not only with a new awareness but with tools needed to let everyone know that the “R” word should be banned. The story ended up on CNN. You can view it here; http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-238168
In Brockton, elementary students from two schools were lead by a number of their teachers in activities that demonstrated that cruel actions and words always leave a scar, even after apologies are made. In one activity students drew pictures of themselves to represent how they felt about themselves. They then listened to a song entitled “Don’t laugh at me.” Every time they heard something hurtful or moving, they were told to “rip a small piece of their self-portrait” demonstrating their hurt. When the song was done they discussed what happened and then were told to repair the picture. Unfortunately the damage was done to their self-images and the lesson was learned.
Activities like this happened across Massachusetts and across the country. Thousands of students went on line to not only take the pledge never to use the “R” word again, but to use words that show acceptance, respect, and friendship-that build up people’s feelings about themselves, not tear them apart. Students not only learned how careless actions and thoughtless use of words can hurt, but learned about positive steps they can take to make the world one of respect, acceptance, and dignity.