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Students campaign against the 'R' word
Cibola High School's student council recently created a video encouraging their fellow classmates to join them in taking a pledge, eliminating a word from their vocabulary used by some as a synonym for “dumb” or “stupid.”
With almost 1,000 views on YouTube, the silent video features special education students, student council students and school staff and faculty holding up signs explaining how the word “retard(ed)” makes students feel and how they must unify as a campus to put a stop to the use of the word. Visit http://tinyurl.com/CibolaR-word to view the 48-second video or scroll down to the bottom of this article.
Arizona River Area Special Olympics director Lisa Ball said she introduced the “R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign to students in their Unified Sports Programs, which consist of students both with and without intellectual disabilities.
She said students took the campaign and ran with it on their campuses this year. Students at Cibola in addition to San Luis, Kofa and San Pasqual high schools and Desert View Elementary School shared the messages on their campuses, Ball noted.
“Next year we are hoping every school in Yuma County participates in our R-Word campaign,” Ball said. Visit www.r-word.org for more information about the nationwide campaign.
Cibola junior Alley Jeffers said after hearing about the movement, she felt it was something that could really be beneficial on their campus.
“That word, I've never really liked it to begin with. So when I found out that they were having a campaign, I really wanted to go full force on it.”
Since inviting students to sign a banner in commemoration of the pledge to stop using the word, passing out T-shirts and wristbands to raise awareness and putting the video on the school's morning news show and on YouTube.com, Jeffers said, she has noticed a difference on campus where people in her classes are actually refraining from saying the word.
“I'm starting to hear people, they'll catch themselves before saying the word and just them catching it is really good,” said senior Drew Sanchez, a community service co-chair on the student council along with Jeffers.
Senior class president Hans Rodriguez, who also is a part of the Cibola television team, shot and edited the R-word video. He said it was a great experience for him as he had never worked with special education students before.
“It was definitely an eye-opener to see how way cool they are and you're able to talk with them and hang out with them just as much as with anyone else.”
Rodriguez added that he didn't expect the video to take off as much as it did. “Overall it was an amazing outcome.”
Instructional aide Carol Manning said that while most students on campus are respectful to special education students, there have always been some who have to be pulled aside and talked to.
In regards to the campaign, Manning said, “For our students, this means a lot because they get really hurt when they hear that word ... I hope it spreads to the community because going off campus with these children, it really breaks your heart a lot of times when people are unaware of their feelings.”
Special education students Ginny Cook, Angie Perez and Matthew Bodine were all featured in the video. They said it made them happy to know students on their campus were pushing this message.
Cook said she wanted to participate in the video “to help change the school and make it better.” Perez and Bodine agreed they are hopeful that the word won't be used on campus anymore.
Bodine's mom, Anne, said that when her son heard about the campaign at school, he came home very excited trying to tell her all about it.
“His speech isn't very clear and he kept trying to tell me get rid of the word and I wondered what the word was and then he spelled it out for me. It's been really sweet.”
She said that working at Mesquite Elementary as an instructional aide, “I'm hoping we can show the video here to the students, to help them be more aware, because we do have special ed kids here, too.
“... It's just awesome to spread the word and get it out into the community to help open people's eyes a little bit. I think a lot of times, when they do use that word, it's because they don't understand and they're uncomfortable.”
Cibola Assistant Principal Lisa Domby said she is extremely proud of the students for stepping up and putting together the campaign on campus.
“To see kids take an interest and want to give back and do the right thing — it can't get any better than that.”
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.