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First State schools renew effort to stop use of the "R-word"

Nearly 80 Delaware schools will participate Wednesday in the nationwide awareness campaign to ask people to stop using the word retarded -or the “R-word.”

The motivation for “Spread the Word to End the Word” is driven by the belief that words influence attitudes.

As is often the situation, language evolves. And in this case, the “R- word” has morphed from a dated diagnostic term to a pejorative that reinforces stereotypes.

Jon Buzby, a spokesperson for Special Olympics Delaware says when people describe something they consider stupid as “retarded” they don’t often realize the implications in their words.  

“Even though a lot of people use it with no intention of insulting anybody, we try to get people away from that" said Buzby. "Everybody in society today knows somebody that would be taken aback by that word so it really is offensive.”

Still, it gets used and, in some cases, in very public forum.  Lady Gaga once used the word in an interview when asked about comparisons to Madonna. LeBron James said it to describe a reporter's question in a post game interview.

Buzby says these kinds of cases can generate teachable moments.  

“You know in most cases, the celebrities that have used that word, they have taken a step back and apologized," said Buzby. "Sometimes the best way to become aware is too realize that you’re doing something that you shouldn’t be doing and that’s what I think has happened with a lot of these celebrities.”        

The “Spread The Word to End the Word” awareness campaign began in 2009. Wednesday, Delaware students will conduct educational activities and coordinate pledge drives to encourage everyone to stop the use of the R-Word.