Students at Liberty North High School bury derogatory term in mock funeral

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LIBERTY, Mo. -- Words can hurt. That's what students at one local high school say about the slang word "retarded," and they're encouraging their peers to cut it out.

Two students at Liberty North High School, seniors Montana Grizzle and Skyler Allen, are leading a student-based campaign to end the use of the word "retarded," as it pertains to the slang use of the word.

On Friday, the two went as far as to hold a mock funeral, and actually bury "the R word." A small wooden cutout of the letter 'R' was buried on school grounds, and set afire, along with signatures of students vowing not to use the slur.

Allen and Grizzle even obtained a donated tombstone from a local mortuary. Allen said it will serve as a permanent reminder that students should take a stand to defend the mentally disabled.

"It's become such a norm in our society to use the 'R word' in that derogatory way, that it's okay to use it," Allen said. "We are here to say that it's not okay."

Students issued their support by signing this pact, agreeing to end their use of the derogatory term. Grizzle said she helped start this push after a family member was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

"We wanted to accept everyone for who they are and to create a culture of positive language," Grizzle said. "We don't want people using this word or any negative words."

Jenny Rovel Jones helps manage the school's Gateway program, which offers a chance for the mentally handicapped to transition from high school into the working world.

"One person using positive language can make a difference," Jones said. "One person can influence everyone to create a more positive climate at Liberty North High School."

Allen and Grizzle say they're pleased that the majority of the student body at Liberty North High School has agreed to sign that pact.

The campaign to bury the "R word" is part of a national initiative. Here's a link to their website.

Check out Sean McDowell's FOX 4 Facebook page here.

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  • Joe

    Who is it that has decided the word “retarded” is derogatory? It is in the dictionary and has been used properly for years. It is simply a word to indicate that a person has a disability of the brain when the person doesn’t know the actual diagnosis. The next question is why would a high school administration allow the entire student body to waste time getting signatures and then burning them. Seems like the time could have been better utilized in the classroom.

  • Jan

    Too bad Mr. McDowell is not as informed and sensitive as those young students. Use of the term “handicapped” is also not considered acceptable. Handicapped actually comes from the beggars on the street with their caps held out in their hands to collect money. Also, his lack of sensitivity of use of Person-First vocabulary is just astounding for someone who is supposed to be an informed journalist. He needs more lessons from those high school students.

    • Joe

      Jan: Everyone has their own rules about being politically correct. Handicapped IS acceptable if it conveys the message the person is trying to send. I’ll stick with retarded because that leaves no doubt about what I meant. Jan, you may be a litttle retarded and may want to get a check up from the neck up.

  • Barron Tide

    I just found another group of folks who need to read 1984 or perhap we all need to read it again before this kid becomes head of the Ministry of Truth. Altering the language does not change behavior or intent. The degree to which people get offended by language is absurd; especially when people choose to get offended by things that simply are not true(i.e. handicapped).

    Handicapped comes from Hand in Cap, a 17th century bartering game. In the 18th century it gets applied to horse racing. It was and is a sporting term. A faster horse is given more weight to equal things out… That is hardly a degrading origin.