Eliminating the "R-Word"

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Words can hurt, especially the tone or volume, that's why an international campaign hopes to eliminate the use of the "R-Word," or retard. Efforts are underway at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids aim to replace the word retarded with respect.

It's the new swear word, the R word. But it's a word that the Prairie High school student body and staff don't want in these hallways.

"When I was growing up people said the R-word and it didn't really have a lot of meaning, but I think now when you say those words it can really hurt somebody even if you're not meaning to", said special education teacher Stephanie Klein.

The school celebrated a campaign started by the Special Olympics and Best Buddies, a program where special and general education students team up. It's called "Spread the Word to End the Word." The goal is to help people realize that the r-word does hurt.

"I hope people realize its just a bad word and you shouldn't use it." The journey began years ago for junior Anthony Knoll. "I've been in special education since second grade." Anthony has a mild to moderate intellectual disability. "My parents just think I'm a slow learner at things."

Middle school was a time when Anthony says he was overweight and unhappy. "Middle school I would say was a little rough for me because I really didn't like how I was." But then Anthony joined the football team, began to lose weight, 90 pounds that is, and gain more friends. Now in his third year at Prairie High, that's a distant memory.

Anthony and his best buddy partner Jacob Coble-Frakes are often seen talking and laughing in the hallways. Jacob is not only friends with Anthony but he also volunteers in Miss Klein's class; five students with varying levels of disabilities.

Stopping his friends from using the R-word is one of Jacob's passions. "I immediately tell people 'hey don't use the r-word.'" Jacob Coble-Frakes is a senior at Prairie High School. "I have no problem telling people not to use that word because it is really offensive to people."

Eliminating the word helps eliminate the differences. A campaign that's infectious.

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