CORTLAND - Lakeview High School students are doing their part locally to help promote a national effort to end to the use of the word ''retard(ed).''
The school's student council has gathered more than 150 student and staff participants to help ''Spread the Word to End the Word'' which is an ongoing effort to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word "retard(ed)" and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word.
The campaign is intended to get schools, communities and organizations to rally and pledge their support.
Cathy Frederick, Lakeview teacher and adviser to student council, said the students wanted to take part in the campaign locally and have been spreading the word by wearing T-shirts with special messages on them, posting signs and making announcements over the school's public address system.
She said Lakeview is among the few high schools taking part, though there are colleges and universities involved with the campaign.
Student council president Rachel Rubadiri and vice president Rachael Herriman said they would like to see other schools take part as well.
They explained that it is important that students and the public stop using the r-word in expressions or in slang speech such as referring to something being stupid or dumb.
Herriman said colleges have been very involved in the efforts. High schools also are starting to be part of the campaign
"It's important that we bring this to people's attention," Herriman said.
The website www.rword.org explains that the terms "mental retardation" or "mentally retarded" were originally introduced medical terms with a specifically clinical connotation; however, the forms "retard" and "retarded" have been used widely in today's society to degrade and insult people with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, when "retard" and "retarded" are used as synonyms for "dumb" or "stupid" by people without disabilities, it reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities as less valued members of humanity.
Rubadiri said to get the message across, students wear special T-shirts to school every other Friday.
Frederick said there are many special needs students in schools and adults in society who face challenges without having to hear expressions from others that can be offensive and hurtful.
Rubadiri said she was impressed at how many students got involved with the effort. She said it is very important that the message be brought to the attention of young people when they hear it used.
Herriman said the morning messages bring awareness and light to situations where the word is used.
Rubadiri said since the campaign started, the expression is very rarely heard at school.
"Too many people often don't think before they say something that can be hurtful,'' Herriman said.
The student council is also using the effort as a fundraiser with proceeds from the sale of the T-shirts to be given to Someplace Safe, a domestic violence shelter in Trumbull County.