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In the News: Push To Ban The 'R' Word

In mid-September, Augustana’s Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC) unveiled its campaign to “Ban the R-Word,” an initiative to stop people from using the word “retarded” by banning the word altogether.

The following story aired on KELO-TV on Sunday, Oct. 9:

Push To Ban The 'R' Word
By Nicole Winters, KELO-TV

SIOUX FALLS, SD - A group of students and professors at Augustana College are starting a drive to ban the 'R' word. It's used in the medical field as a term for someone with intellectual disabilities. But more often than not, it's used as a slang term, which can offensive.

Elementary and Special Education major Jaci Mowinkel knows the strengths every student has despite any intellectual disabilities. That's one of the reasons why she finds the 'R' word so offensive.

"They hurt people; you see people hurt by these terms," Mowinkel said.

Mowinkel says she hears it said almost everyday across campus and sees it on Facebook posts used as a synonym for dumb or stupid.

"If you can't say it to a person who has a disability and you know you're offending them, why would you say it at all?" Mowinkel said.

That's the question she and several other students at Augustana are hoping others will think about with a drive to raise awareness.

"The goal is to get people to realize that using the word retarded as a slang word hurts feelings, considered hate speech. It's a low level bullying," Assistant Special Education Professor Matt Johnson said.

Johnson is helping students spread the word. They've ordered more than 200 t-shirts, buttons and posters.

"We’re kind of spreading the word across campus," Johnson said.

Students and staff hope by wearing the t-shirts and buttons that they at least get other people to think about the cause and why the word can be so offensive.

"I don't know if they just aren't aware that it is a slur and hurtful, so even just getting awareness that it is a hurtful saying is beneficial," Mowinkel said.

The ultimate goal is for those who use it take it out of their vocabulary.

"I would love to walk a whole day and not have to hear the 'R' word in a slander term," Mowinkel said.

The students and professors plan to pick a day next month for everyone to wear their t-shirts on the same day.