Guilford High School (GHS) students, parents, teachers, staff, and local politicians joined together on March 1 for the sixth annual “End the ‘R’ Word” campaign at GHS. Students entering the school Wednesday morning were asked to sign a pledge promising not to use the word “retard(ed)”.
End the ‘R’ Word is a national campaign. GHS Event organizer Kim Beckett said it is important to recognize this campaign at GHS to educate students on the harmful effects of the word.
“So often it is used in casual conversation and it is wrong, but if you teach people and you give them the empathy of the way it makes other people feel…you make a difference in the world,” she said. “When people hear the ‘R’ word—those of us who have been educated on it—it feels like a bolt of electricity going through your body.”
Students of all abilities, members of Unified Sports teams, and life skills students were on hand to pass out bracelets to those who signed the pledge. GHS Senior Alexandra Toscano said she has seen a difference in the way students react to the “R” word because of the campaign.
“It feels like it has been helpful in getting others to not use the ‘R’ word because using the ‘R’ word is not a very nice thing,” she said.
State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr. (D-12) and GHS alum State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-98) attended the campaign. Scanlon said he has attended the campaign event every year and he has seen the campaign grow as more people participate and more people sign the pledge.
“It is an inspiring thing to see how far we have come in terms of understanding and tolerance of people who have disabilities and people who are different,” he said.