Students Bent On Banning The 'R' Word

Students Advocating Moratorium On The Word 'Retard'

In partnership with the Special Olympics and the Best Buddies program, thousands of students across the country are joining forces to bring awareness to a campaign to end the use of the word 'retard.'

The campaign is called Spread the Word to End the Word. On March 3, Special Olympics athletes and their supporters will launch the campaign with more than 500 events nationwide.

The Pi Kappa Phi fraternity at Colorado State University is marking the day by quite literally taking a stand on the issue, erecting a 10-foot scaffolding platform, which will be manned for 24 hours Wednesday in protest of the term.

"We're campaigning to stop the use of the word retard," said fraternity vice president, Adam Lever. Lever said the use of the word has become so mainstream, that many young people no longer realize how offensive it is.

"I've been in classes where teachers have used it and the Black Eyed Peas used it in one of their songs," said Lever.

"We're trying to get students on this campus, teachers and faculty to pledge to not use the word," said Pi Kappa Phi president Chris Wilson.

Mindy Watrous, president of Special Olympics, Colorado, said the most effective way of getting the message across is to get young people talking to their own peers about not using the word.

“When you use the word retard as a slur or as a hate word or to make fun of, that's where it becomes painful and hurtful to people with disabilities,” said Watrous.

Scott Lee, a CSU junior, has a brother who is autistic and said it’s about time someone stood up for those who cannot always stand up for themselves.

“I hear [the word] and I cringe,” said Lee. “I think it's good that someone is finally saying something about it.”

But not everyone thought the term was particularly harmful. Some students said young people simply see the word as a punch line, not as a slur.

“They just kind of mean it as a light insult,” said CSU freshman Alex Stoesz. Watrous said that is precisely the problem -- the word has become so mainstream, that many young people have forgotten that it is hurtful

“They typically say 'I didn't mean it that way,'“ said Watrous. “But to the 200 million people with intellectual disabilities and their family and friends, it's very hurtful.”

Watrous said the goal of the campaign is to get at least 100,000 participants to sign an online petition to pledge to stop using the ‘R’ word once and for all. Supporters can find out more information and sign the petition at www.r-word.org.