Local schools, daycares to pledge not to use the R-word

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The R-word. Everyone’s heard it and many have used it, but how many realize how offensive the word “retarded” can be?

Seven Rowan County Schools and daycares will participate in the “R-word: Spread the word to end the word challenge” on Wednesday.

“It’s not a big event or day,” said Jill Wagoner, the sibling and parent of individuals with special needs. “It’s more of an advocacy effort.”

“The day is really about helping people understand,” she said.

“For my whole life, I’ve found that word offensive,” she said. “I’ve always been pretty passionate about it.”

“It’s no better than a racial slur,” Wagoner said. “I consider hate speech that it is still socially acceptable.”

“It’s become ‘the word’ in middle school,” said Partners in Learning Executive Director Norma Honeycut. “That’s the slang for ‘you’re stupid,’” she said.

“It’s really been used as a bullying technique,” Honeycutt said.

“I don’t think it’s intentionally targeting people with intellectual disabilities, they just don’t know how hurtful it is,” she added.

Partners in Learning has participated in the campaign for several years, asking parents to sign a pledge. This year, all four Cornerstone Child Development sites, Saint John’s Preschool, Salisbury Academy and North Hills Christian School will also take the pledge.

“During that day, the parent receives info as to why it’s important and then they sign the pledge,” said Partners in Learning Executive Director Norma Honeycutt.

Those pledges are then entered into a national database.

“Thousands of people take the pledge,” Honeycutt said.

Other schools and groups can take the pledge as well, she said, adding that anyone can come by Partners in Learning at any time Wednesday and take the pledge, or they can take it online.

“They’re not less than other people. They’re different,” she said.