Plymouth students want people to stop using the R-word

Plymouth students say 6-letter word is hurtful, offensive


PLYMOUTH, Mich. – High school students in Plymouth have launched a campaign to stop the use of a six-letter word that they say is used in a hurtful manner.

The word is retard or retarded.

"It all started when someone called me a retard because I'm in resource room and I'm dyslexic. And I was so upset because it just is not a good word," said senior Alex Felts.

Felts is one of the students in the Human Services Exploration class at Plymouth High School.  She had the idea to do something local with the national campaign "R-word Spread the Word to End the Word."

"People use it as dumb or stupid. and I'm obviously not dumb or stupid," said Felts.

Classmates agree the word should not be used.

"We're starting a campaign called 'Spread the Word to End the Word' to get kids to realize that the word retarded is actually offensive," said senior Madison Macek.

"It makes you more aware of just how awful people are to each other," said fellow senior Jessica Linderman.

"We all hear the word and it's just, it's hurtful," said senior Brooke Kreza.

The students plan to have a banner available to students and staff on Friday that they can sign pledging they will no longer use the R-word.

The senior is not afraid to tell people to stop using it.

"Even if I don't know them, I will let them know that this word is not OK," said Felts.

Felts said respect is the R-word people should use instead.  

"It's lack of knowledge," said Cathy Dobias, a teacher at Plymouth High School. "Students who come into our class for human service explorations, the first thing they learn is people's first language. That you talk about somebody with their name first and their disability is second."

The class shot and edited together a public service announcement that has been played at the school this week to help educate students about the R-word and why it shouldn't be used.  

WATCH: "R-word" PSA

In the video, are students sharing their personal experiences with the R-word and how it makes them feel.   

"I think it's wonderful to see the passion in teenagers to do something good for other people. Put their energy into something and to see the results of it really helps them to say 'Hey, I can make a difference,'" said Dobias.

The students are pleased about the momentum behind their campaign.

"We kind of just started with it and we didn't think it was going to happen this fast, but it was something that we all felt passionate about," said Madison Macek.

Felts said she plans to be a special education teacher someday.

"The students with disabilities, they are just as smart as everyone else," said Felts.

The banner students will sign will stay up at the school.  Felts hopes seeing the sign will help students remember the pledge they made by signing it.

In addition to the banner, the students will also be holding a bake sale, selling bracelets and pencils on Friday to raise money for the Special Olympics and for the Food Exploration Class for students with special needs.

The banner was donated by a parent and money was donated by another parent to help pay for the bracelets and pencils.

For more information on the R-word, Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, click here.