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Cherokee Middle School takes on ‘R-word’

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By Cindy Simpson

Cherokee Middle School is pushing back against bullies in a YouTube video.

The video also focused on one particularly offensive name-calling theme: using the word “retarded.”

Kellie Allen, a special education teacher at Cherokee, was behind the effort.

“I decided I just wanted to raise awareness for anti-bullying and at the same time I wanted to raise awareness for ‘Spread the Word to End the Word,’” Allen said.

“I wanted to make a video,” she added. She found a company called LemonDrop Productions that helped make the video for free.

Students participated in the videos, holding up signs with descriptive words and more.

Nate Sackett held a sign with the words, “It’s Time.”

The video has been well received by his peers.

“People at school have been giving high-fives,” Sackett said.

But has the video made a difference?

Beta Club member Davey Clark thinks so.

“I haven’t heard the word “retarded” in awhile,” Davey said. “And if people say it, they catch themselves, and they change it.”

Allen is glad. She finds the word hurtful.

She noted that in 2010, President Barack Obama signed Rosa’s Law to remove the use of “mental retardation” in federal documents in favor of the term “intellectual disabilities.”

In addition to the video, the school had a week-long focus on the issues that culminated in a schoolwide assembly that included student speakers and the presentation of the film.

Selected Beta members shared statistics regarding bullying and issued a daily challenge, such as inviting someone new to your lunch table that day.

Faculty and staff shared personal stories of a time when they were either bullied or were themselves cruel to someone else.

Their message was, “No one is perfect — not even your teachers.”

Students were also asked to make a pledge to not use the “r-word.”
The video can be found by going to roanecountyschools.com and looking under the “News and Events” heading.