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Local group aims to rid 'hateful slang' word

Choosing words wisely was today’s topic at Fortuna’s Monday Club meeting.  

"We’re here just to educate people and enlighten people about the use of ‘retard’ or ‘retarded’ as a slang word," Reaching For Independence Assistant Service Director Jeff Pockett said.

RFI is an organization in Fortuna. Its mission is to assist adults with developmental disabilities find competitive employment in Humboldt County. However, today their mission was different— today it was about the use of the “R word.”

"To help spread the word that people, kids and especially adults—

to open their eyes and see the truth about this word and hopefully try to eliminate it," Stefan Thomsen said.

It’s a national campaign that was founded in April 2007, but it wouldn’t come to the North Coast until 2010. The effort began after an incident at a Fortuna elementary school. A group of students called some of the RFI supporters the “R word.” Instead of punishing the students, the school chose a different route. The principal invited the organization to come back and talk to the students about how the word can be hurtful. After a positive experience, RFI decided to continue the outreach.

"We bring people that we support into the class so that students get a one-to-one perspective of the people we support," Pockett said.

Thomsen along with Sarah Deniston are part of the team. They share their experiences on how the “R-word” can be hurtful.

"I was affected when I was a kid, people would make fun of me," Deniston said.

She hopes that by bringing light to the issue through her personal experience, people will think before they speak.

"It’s hurtful to the people and stuff,” She said. “It's really mean and it shouldn't be used at all."