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FMS kills ‘R’ word


Hundreds of Farragut Middle School students pledged to eliminate the word “retard” from their vocabulary Thursday, March 2.

Seventh-graders Natalie Campbell, Alexander Rather, Tatum Carver and Paxton Masengil, along with seventh-grade science teacher Elizabeth MacTavish, spearheaded the FMS “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign.

Natalie, who led the campaign, said she did so in honor of her younger sister, Olivia, who is a Farragut Intermediate School student.

“Olivia has Down’s syndrome and it can also be said that Olivia is mentally retarded,” Natalie said.

“This campaign is about the word ‘retard’ and how it affects others and how, whenever you say the word, you are insulting Olivia and people like Olivia by saying that is something they would do or how they would act,” she added.

Special Olympics representative Jenn Brooks said, “‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies International and our campaign supporters to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word ‘retard’ [or retarded] and encourage people to stop using the r-word.”


Natalie said she hoped by talking to her fellow students she could help make things easier for Olivia and for those like her.

“I don’t want Olivia, when she gets older and realizes what the word means and how it affects her, to have to hear this and know that she is really not accepted by most of this world,” Natalie said.

In order to spread the word, Natalie spent time going from classroom to classroom at FMS and telling her fellow students what it means to her family when people use the word.

“I just told them what it means, and how it effects Olivia and my family,” she said.

MacTavish, who helped Natalie put the program together, said Natalie was “well beyond her years” in terms of speaking to her peers.

“It was incredible. There are 1,300 kids in the building and she talked to every single one in class,” MacTavish said.

“You could tell it was from her heart,” she added.

Natalie and Olivia’s mother, Jackie Campbell, contacted MacTavish earlier in the school year about the possibility of setting up the campaign.

“She told me Olivia was next door and that she had Down’s syndrome,” MacTavish said.

“We just sort of talked about the word. She said, ‘I know it is used a lot by middle schoolers and there is a campaign to end the word and Natalie would like to do something,’” she added.

Natalie and MacTavish brainstormed and came up with some ideas.

When Alexander, Paxton and Tatum heard about the campaign they all wanted to be involved in honor of Olivia.

Alexander, who has been friends with Olivia for years, said he wanted to help raise awareness.

“When people say that word, I know it hurts her and I don’t want her to have to hear that word,” he said.

Paxton said she wanted to help people understand the word before they use it.

“I think they say the word, but they do not know exactly what it means or who they are addressing and who they are offending when they say it. I think that by just showing them and telling them, ‘this is what you are really saying,’ it puts it into perspective of who they are hurting,” she added.

MacTavish said she plans to hold the campaign yearly.

“Natalie will be in eighth grade next year and we are hoping to do bigger and better. Then when she goes to high school we will be blessed to have Olivia here with us. Even once the Campbell family moves on out of the middle school, we have other students who are affected by it and we will do it in honor of every single one of them,” she said.

For more information on the campaign and to make the pledge, visit www.r-word.org/

 

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