(Jackson, Wyo.) - It's more than a word, it's a movement to end disrespectful and derogatory language that hurts others. This national movement, called Spread the Word to End the Word
, is being led locally by a group of teens who have
been working to educate elementary, middle and high school students on the
R-Word, as well as spread the message throughout the community.
According to Andrea Overly, Jackson Hole High School (JHHS) science teacher
and Student Council advisor, the movement began about four years ago when
she was approached by someone who worked at the Jackson Hole Therapeutic
"Ever since then, it has been their annual event. Every year it has been
very successful and has had a big influence on our school," said Overly.
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During the last few weeks, the JHHS Student Council has been giving
presentations at local schools in an effort to halt the use of the R-Word.
"I have been very active most of my life in Special Olympics and we have a
club here called Best Buddies that supports students with disabilities, so
I have been personally impacted by students hurt by the R-Word," said said
Molly Pickerill, senior at JHHS and one of two student body presidents.
"They [students with disabilities] should have a safe learning environment.
I am really good friends with one of the Special Olympics kids and he has
opened by eyes to be more accepting," said Bjorn Schou, JHHS senior and the
other student body president.
For the presentation the students gave for Colter Elementary School, the
topic focused on disrespectful language.
"I think it is important to spread the message at that level. That way,
when they get to middle school and high school and we talk about heavier
subjects, they will have that base level understanding," said Pickerill.
For the middle and high school presentations, the Student Council stressed
the importance of not using the R-Word. On March 2, which is National
Spread the Word to End the Word Day, Student Council put up awareness
posters, had students pledge to not say the R-Word and gave out T-Shirts to
those who signed the pledge.
"The high school students really opened up to it," said Schou. "We ran out
of shirts and students were still pledging."
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"Every year I am super impressed with the students and how committed they
are to this," said Overly. "The level of motivation and responsibility
displayed by all of the Student Council members was really amazing,
especially this year."
*Feature Photo: h/t Jackson Hole High School / Pitchengine Communities*