Hoover High School students campaign to erase 'R' word

FRESNO, Calif.

The new 'R' word is respect. The effort at Hoover High is part of a nationwide campaign called "spread the word, to end the word." Students used their lunch break to fight against the derogatory use of the "R" word. "When people use the word, like, 'oh hey, retard', or, 'that's retarded', it's really upsetting because it's not their fault they are the way they are," said Hoover High School senior Abbie Maled.

Hundreds of students and staff members joined members of the school's Special Olympics team, signing a pledge to stop using the word. Students said the word isn't nice. Hearing it makes special education student Sebastian Owens angry. "It would make me really mad," said Owens.

"The "R" word is used so often in everyday speech. Kids today, adults today, they don't even realize they're saying that word," said special education teacher Michele Carmichael.

In just over one month, more than 600 "R" t-shirts have been sold at Hoover. Maled helped organize the effort and has a brother who is mentally challenged. She said she's doing it for him and her fellow students. "It's crazy how out of hand it's gotten because you hear students say it, teachers say it, adults anywhere. You go into a grocery store, you'll hear it. It's really bad," said Maled.

Students on the campus say the campaign is working. Junior Aaron Jimenez says his water polo teammates started holding each other accountable. "We'd have to do push ups, like every time we'd say the word, like 25 push ups. But eventually, it made us not say it anymore. And it's actually something we should do. Nobody should say it," said Jimenez.

To date, more than 170,000 thousand people have taken an online pledge to quit saying the 'R' word at www.r-word.org.

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