MSNBC: Texas yearbook labels some special needs students ‘mentally retarded’

23 05 2012

I have a bit of a pet peeve about use of words like “retarded” and “gay” by my students. Within a few days of being in my class, they all know that they’ll incur my wrath if they say, “That’s so gay.” Using the word “gay” as an equivalent for “bad” or “lame” is degrading and insulting. Likewise, students don’t use the word “retarded” in my class, in virtually any context. It’s unacceptable, and they know exactly why I don’t approve.

Maybe that’s part of the reason I find it very hard to believe that no one in a group of high school students would be aware that “retarded” is derogatory to people with special needs. I think it’s far more likely that they thought it would be funny, or nobody would care.

I realize that being the yearbook advisor is not a job that most teachers want to take on. I enjoy it myself, but I often get weird looks when I mention that to my colleagues. It can be challenging and stressful, but it’s not without reward. And it’s your responsibility to remember — and constantly remind your staff — that yearbooks are forever. Decades from now, former students will look back through their old annuals and reminisce. A yearbook is a record of memories, accomplishments, and friendships. It’s not to be thrown together haphazardly, and it should be something in which the entire school can take pride.

And if you’re the yearbook adviser, its a really good idea to proofread it.

 

– dEV

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By Msnbc.com’s Sevil Omer and NBCDFW.com’s Andres Gutierrez

A Dallas-area high school was forced to pull back its yearbooks after a section described some students with special needs as “mentally retarded.”

Officials at the Mesquite Independent School District have apologized to families and students of Mesquite High School, east of Dallas, for a section dedicated to students with disabilities that contained errors and offensive language, district spokeswoman Laura Jobe said.

“It was with the best of intentions and not meant to ridicule or disparage anyone in any way,” Jobe told msnbc.com on Tuesday. “We believe the students didn’t understand the term ‘retarded’ was not acceptable. It was just an error that was overlooked and got printed, unfortunately.”

Jobe said she did not read the two-page section, but did see a photocopy of one page, which was sent to her office. She said a section read: “some of the disabilities the students in the Special Education Program have are being blind, deaf or non-verbal.”

She added:  “Specific disabilities of students were also cited in the yearbook, with some labeled as both blind and deaf, as well as mentally retarded.”

Students on the yearbook staff, a team of mostly seniors and a teacher advisor, also did not have parental permission to publish the photos of the students with special needs, Jobe said.

A special education teacher noticed the errors on Friday after 100 copies of the publication had been distributed to the senior class at Mesquite, Jobe said. Mesquite High School has about 2,800 students.

The school collected all the yearbooks and sent them back to the publisher, Jobe said. She said the section will be taken out and the yearbooks glued back together. Students will get their copies by next week, she said.

(Full Story with Video)

http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/22/11810461-texas-yearbook-labels-some-special-needs-students-mentally-retarded?lite

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