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Newtown High School students involved in Unified Sports and Best Buddies recently teamed up to run the school’s annual campaign to “Ban the ‘R’ Word.”
The NHS Best Buddies chapter fosters friendships between high school students and students with special needs, and the Unified Sports program offers competitive sports opportunities for special needs students and assistance by partners, some of whom are traditional high school athletes.
The NHS Best Buddies and Unified Sports program first teamed up to “Spread the word to end the word” last school year, but the campaign has been an annual one at the school for the Best Buddies group.
According to NHS special education teacher and one of the advisors for Best Buddies, Jill Gonski, the effort to share information about not using the “r” word, began on Sunday, March 12, with a potluck dinner in the NHS cafetorium for participating students and family members. The campaign was run at NHS March 20 to 24, with Best Buddies and Unified Sports students visiting advisory periods at the school to speak with their fellow students.
The campaign asked students to sign pledges to not use the “r” word.
According to r-word.org, which is supported by Special Olympics and Best Buddies, the campaign asks people to pledge not to use the word “retard(ed)” because it is hurtful, exclusive, offensive, and derogatory.
The Unified Sports and Best Buddies students also worked to spread information beyond the school this year. Unified Sports students asked people to sign pledges at the Connecticut Interscholastic Conference (CIAC) High School Basketball Finals on Sunday, March 19, according to one of the Unified Sports coaches and NHS teacher Kathy Davey, who said more than 1,000 signatures were collected at the event.
Ms Gonski also said Dan Kennedy of Keno Graphics created and donated 2,500 pledge cards for the campaign this year. Mr Kennedy’s daughter Sara Kennedy is the NHS Best Buddies vice president this year.
NHS Best Buddies and Unified Sports students also visited Newtown Middle School to help spread the word with younger students.
By Thursday, March 23, more than 1,200 pledges had been signed by NHS students, according to Ms Gonski and Ms Davey, and that was before the NMS pledges were collected.
Ms Davey said this year’s campaign was a “joint effort with lots of hands on deck.”
On Friday, March 24, NHS Best Buddies and Unified Sports students worked to post signed pledges in the high school’s lobby. The students worked to form a letter “r” with the paper pledges.