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Lawyer Michael Avenatti arrested on a domestic violence charge. Also on the Thursday rundown: More testimony on Ohio's "anti-protest" bill; and we'll take you to the Dakotas to celebrate American Education Week.

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Group: Replace the R-Word With Respect

March 3, 2010

MIAMI, Fla. - "Spread the Word to End the Word" is the theme of today's public awareness efforts to end the use of the term "retarded" to describe people with intellectual disabilities. It is a joint effort of Special Olympics International and Miami-based Best Buddies International.

The goal of the nationwide effort is to build awareness by collecting 100,000 pledges at events and online, from people who promise to stop using "the 'R' word." Best Buddies International founder Anthony Kennedy Shriver says about two million people worldwide have intellectual disabilities, and they deserve respect.

"We're holding events at different locations all over the world, really to raise people's consciousness about the harmful and hurtful effects that the 'R' word has on people using the word 'retard' or 'retarded,' and trying to abolish it from people's vocabulary."

Even using the word in jest, he adds, is demeaning and has negative repercussions for society.

Eric Matthes, 33, is a buddy ambassador with Best Buddies International. He recalls how painful it was when other children called him names because of his disabilities.

"It's very hurtful when people call me that. Kids have told me that I was 'just retarded' and I 'knew nothing.' I have a disability, but I always use my abilities as much as I could."

The campaign was launched by a group of college students, including Soeren Palumbo, a junior at Notre Dame. His sister, now age 15, has intellectual disabilities and he witnessed her struggles with others' hurtful stereotypes. He hopes banishing the term will be a step toward a world of greater acceptance.

"This, in a lot of ways, is a first step for a lot of people. Choosing not to use the 'R' word can be a great gateway into creating a life that is more accepting, more empowering; that is more engaging with people with intellectual disabilities."

On the Web site www.R-word.org, people can sign the pledge and locate related events in their area.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL