Moon Middle School Students Band Together to Against the 'R-Word'
A group of local middle school students are urging their peers to stop using the word.
It's a cruel word that often rolls off tongues in casual conversation: "Retarded."
Now a group of Moon Area Middle School students say they want to encourage their peers to drop the term from their vocabularies.
The trio of eighth-graders has already banned the word from their own vernacular, referring to it only as the "r-word."
"When someone says something like 'that's so the r-word' or 'my phone isn't working, it's so gay,' that isn't okay," said 14-year-old Natalie Melton.
"You do not want to relate something that is dysfunctional back to a living person," she said.
Moon students Melton, Patrick Crago and Jackie Minner teamed up with Moon native and recording artist Sarah Marince as well as the national organization Spread the Word to End the Word to put a stop to use of the term "retarded" at their school.
Melton and Crago said they grew frustrated after hearing the word frequently uttered by classmates, saying that its use is hurtful to those with intellectual disabilities and their loved ones.
Crago, who is a fan of Marince, said he learned of efforts to put a stop to the r-word through the country singer's website. Marince has been an outspoken advocate against the term.
"In my family we're not allowed to use the word," said Crago. "And I saw information on (Spread the Word to End the Word) on Sarah's website."
Crago, 14, enlisted help from Melton and Minner to create a program that would spread their message to other middle school students.
This week, the students hosted an assembly for their classmates, presenting a video featuring Marince interviewing middle schoolers about how they are impacted by the r-word.
"Sarah's dad filmed and edited the interviews," Crago said. "The Marince family had a big impact on this video."
Melton and Crago said many of their classmates have been supportive of their cause.
"At first some people were joking with us and they didn't take it very seriously," Melton said. "That's a typical middle school thing though. After the assembly people started coming up to us and there really are a lot of people in our school who want to stop this."
The students say they politely correct others who use the word as a slur.
"You should politely tell them to stop," Crago said. "Don't put them down for saying. They probably don't know that it's offensive."
"I used to use the word all the time to describe things, but Patrick recruited me," Melton said. "Now I know that it's derogatory."
The students say they plan to organize another assembly next school year and possibly host a pancake breakfast and 5K run to spread their message to the community and surrounding school districts.
"We want to expand this to the Pittsburgh area," Crago said. "We don't want this to be just in Moon."
Crago and Melton said they hope someday the word phases out of common language, becoming a term that is unacceptable in polite conversation.
"That's our goal—we're activists," Melton said. "A majority of the people don't know that the word is bad. It's not even a controversial issue. We just want to get the word out and be visible."