Respected guest gives strength to Overland Park students’ push against demeaning term

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- It's a heavy subject for students at one metro high school.

The "R" word.

A group at Blue Valley Southwest High wants to eliminate the word "retarded" from their hallways, and a notable weightlifter is pushing the message home. Students with special needs aren't always treated as equals.

“Don't judge a book by its cover,” Chevi Peters told a school assembly on Wednesday.

Peters’ message is one of strong respect. The 31-year-old powerlifter stood the Special Olympics World Games on its ear in 2015, as he took gold in three weightlifting events. He spent time with Southwest High students, proving to them discrimination against people with disabilities can be beaten.

“Anything is possible through hard work and dedication,” Peters said. “Maybe some person has a disability, anything is still possible."

Peters has lived with an intellectual disability since he was a small child. He's in complete support of eliminating thoughtless speech.

“It's a hateful word. It's very disrespectful to me. It's a great idea to eliminate it and put respect in there,” Peters said.

Mallory Bennett and her twin brother Ryan understand. She's one of the driving forces behind elimination of the "R word." Her brother lives with a form of autism. They’re both ninth-graders at the school.

“Discrimination is not a thing we want in this community. It's terrible. It separates people,” Mallory Bennett said.

“It's kind of an insult,” Ryan Bennett said. “That's how I'd put it. It could hurt their feelings. Everybody should be treated the way they want to.”

Peters told FOX 4 News the heaviest thing he's defeated is expectations. He hates it when people tell him things he can't do, but he loves proving them wrong.

Peters hails from Pittsburg, Kan., and says he doesn't plan on competing in the next World Games. Instead, he's planning to become a coach, and help other Special Olympians grab the gold.



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