Spread the Word to End the Word

Luke Duerre, OHS Special Services Teacher.

Luke Duerre, OHS Special Services Teacher.

Miles Kirkbride, Journalist

October is Disability Awareness Month, and students at OHS have been busy spreading awareness through the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign. The derogatory ‘r-word’ used to put down those with disabilities can still occasionally be heard throughout the school halls, and this student-led campaign aims to shine a light on the issue. 

Disability Awareness Month has generally always been recognized by OHS. Matt Grant, OHS Principal, says that the new campaign is “kind of a continuation of what we’ve always done. Being a Unified national school, it’s really important that we recognize Disability Awareness Month.” Being a ‘Unified’ school means that OHS has been recognized for meeting a certain number of standards of excellence in its efforts for disability inclusion. Grant adds, however, that “in the last five years, we’ve had speakers and we’ve done assemblies, but it’s been a little harder to get people together and do these things. After a year of remote learning and continued restrictions due to COVID, efforts for inclusion have lost some momentum. “I’ve noticed some of our students with disabilities are a little bit more segregated,” Grant says, “I think we’re gonna have to do lots of outreach to reestablish that norm we had before.”

“Spread the Word to End the Word” is a part of that outreach. Organized entirely by students in STAND and Bear Crew 2, the movement seeks to end the use of the ‘r-word’ in our halls completely. When asked about the campaign, Jasper Sakin Navarro Hummel, OHS Senior, said that “I think the school did a good job of making it known with the morning announcements.”  Although he adds that “people who are already against the word aren’t going to say it, but ***holes are gonna say it so matter what, even if someone tells them not to”. 

While that may be true, others believe that the awareness itself is the most valuable aspect. Luke Duerre, OHS Special Services Teacher, in regards to Disability Awareness Month, states that “I think it’s meaningful that there is an intentional time dedicated to awareness. It’s a reality that impacts so many people and we don’t even realize just how many students are highly impacted in really significant ways.” Duerre adds that “the awareness of it is huge because I think we have a real misunderstanding of what ‘disability’ entails. Disabilities could be autism, it could be challenges with math, it could mean depression or anxiety. The more we’re honest and upfront about the challenges we face the more we realize we have in common, instead of deciding that a disability is like a barrier.”

While the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign may not be the finishing blow to the ‘r-word’, its real purpose might have been to open a larger dialogue about the issue of ableism in our community. “The awareness that nobody is alone, I think, is the greatest impact,” Duerre concludes.