March 2014



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Schools celebrate Spread the Word to End the Word Day

As part of an awareness campaign spearheaded by Special Olympics and the Best Buddies organization, the first Wednesday of March has been designated Spread the Word to End the Word Day. The goal is to end use of the R-word (eg., retard or retarded).

At Central High School in Rapid City, special education teacher Amy Heuston led a student video project for a second year. Response is growing—last year’s video got about 700 views, but this year’s has already gotten almost three times as many hits. Heuston says she included as many people as possible in the video, in the hopes they would all help spread the message: “It’s been an overwhelming positive response.” She is already making plans for next year’s video.

Add to that Simmons Middle School’s effort in Aberdeen and the R-word doesn’t stand a chance. When Missy Hill’s 8th grade homeroom class heard about the special day, they planned a number of schoolwide activities to raise awareness. Hill is a special education teacher and the district’s Special Olympics coach.

Her students went in pairs to each homeroom and delivered two-minute speeches about why it’s important to stop using the R-word. They sold more than 200 Spread the Word to End the Word t-shirts and collected signatures from more than 500 students and staff pledging to stop using the offensive term. In addition, they held a poster contest (with prizes funded by t-shirt sales) and created a video.

Hill says parent-teacher conferences happened at the height of activities, so parents were greeted by walls plastered with posters and pledges.

For educators interested in the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, promotional materials are available from South Dakota’s Special Olympics office. Contact Johna Thum for more information. “We distributed information to 68 schools this year. It grows every year!” says Thum.

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