Students sign pledge against “R” word


Caitlin Abbott


The word “mental retardation” was commonly accepted in the middle of the 20th century for someone with significantly impaired cognitive deficits and functioning. It was a medical term and an accepted term for diagnosis. Today, the word “retard” is used in a derogatory form, a synonym for “loser” or “idiot.” This word is not only hurtful, but quite ignorant for the supposed tolerance of the 21st century.

Hereford High is partaking in a progressive movement, an idea to end the “R” word and spread awareness about the degrading term. Ms. Caitlin MacKenize, Special Education teacher, has asked her class to help lead the efforts to change Hereford for the better, and invite students to get involved. They have created a banner that will be placed in the hall, and are encouraging students to sign their name.

In signing this banner, students pledge to eliminate the “R” word from their vocabulary, and hopefully encourage their fellow students to do the same. The class hopes the pledge will cause many students to see the ignorance that comes from using the term “retard,” and how incorrect it is.

Spread the Word to End the Word is the national campaign to raise awareness about the “R” word, and has hit the halls of Hereford in the form of the pledge. The organization was created in 2009 during the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit and shaped by youth with and without disabilities.

The Special Olympics stated that “the motivation for the campaign was driven by a united passion to promote the positive contributions people with intellectual disabilities make to communities around the world combined with a simple call to action that also symbolizes positive attitude change and a commitment to make the world a more accepting place for all people.”

The pledge signifies a unified group and acceptance that supports all types of people and leaves discrimination out of the mix. The “R” word slows the progressive mentality of our nation, setting us back to a time of severe discrimination, which is ironic considering our nation is so focused on being advanced and ahead of the times.

It’s a small stop towards acceptance, but it has to start somewhere. The goal is to raise awareness and make others think before they speak. Ms. Mackenzie encourages you to help Spread the Word to End the Word, and get involved. You can sign up online to become a bigger part in the cause at and read personal stories and experiences.