Schools throughout Delaware are gearing up for the annual “Spread the Word - Respect” campaign this week.
More than 155 schools in the First State are set to take part in the 11th annual event Wednesday.
And the campaign has evolved since it started in 2009.
Special Olympics Delaware media relations director Jon Buzby says over the years, it’s shifted away from asking people to stop using the word retarded or the R-word and start emphasizing the word “respect.”
“And the reason we’re so proud of that is because what schools are telling us is that the “R” word really is not prevalent in their schools anymore. In fact in the lower levels of elementary schools and pre-schools, the kids have no idea what that word means. And so they don’t want to introduce it by telling people not to use it,” Buzby said.
Buzby says the concept of respect needs to be taught at an early age.
“When I talk to people, I use the analogy of ice skating. If we teach kids how to ice skate early, they don’t have a fear of it, they don’t have a negative stereotype about it; and when I say about it - I mean falling and hurting themselves. And so they jump on skates and they take off. But once you become an adult and once you get older and you’ve had things placed in your mind, you’re less and less likely to go in that direction,” said Buzby.
Buzby says when parents and guardians encourage their kids to spend time with children who are different than they are - whether it’s a disability or color of their skin - it can build respect for others they carry throughout their lives.
Buzby says students at participating elementary, middle and high schools, along with the University of Delaware and all Delaware Tech campuses will hold an array of activities promoting “respect” and “inclusion.”
He says activities include assemblies focused on respect and inclusion and signing a pledge banner at their school to promote those goals.
You can find a list of participating schools and read more about the initiative here.