March 1 is the annual day of awareness for the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign that aims to end the usage of the word “retard(ed).”
Across Wisconsin, students at the high school and college level will hold assemblies and other campus events to help spread the word and encourage students to sign a pledge to end the word. You can join students in their awesome activism by signing this pledge yourself here.
Although proponents of ending the word have made considerable progress, many people still think the R-word is harmless and okay to use. It’s actually a derogatory term that is very hurtful and painful, especially for individuals with intellectual disabilities. And its continued usage is damaging to the efforts of people with intellectual disabilities and their advocates who fight for equal treatment and dignity.
People like Ben Perreth, who travels to schools across the country with his mother, Katherine, to share their story of his struggles with his disabilities and the bullying in school that resulted from him being different from his peers.
“During elementary school, I realized I was different. And I hated it. … I wanted to belong,” he said.
Last year, Perreth and his mother spoke at the Spread the Word to End the Word assembly at McFarland High School about the harm caused by the R-word and bullying against people with intellectual disabilities.
Started in 2009 by college students, the campaign is supported by Special Olympics and Best Buddies. Over 600,000 people have pledged to eliminate the use of the R-word from their speech and Special Olympics Wisconsin encourages you to do the same.
Sign the pledge here.