Anyone Can Be an Advocate


Today I’m going to be “that mom,” and tell you (brag) about my 12-year-old son. He’s in the 7th grade. For years he’s been asking classmates not to use a certain despicable word. Sometimes he successfully educates another kid. Sometimes he corrects a kid over and over again, every single time, no matter what. Some of those kids have been members of his group of pals. Sometimes they have been random schoolmates or even mortal enemies. He’s not shy about it, and he never lets it rest.

So he was taken aback when he saw that his school librarian used an outdated diagnosis in a power point presentation on books whose subject is overcoming obstacles. He was furious, because he felt that a librarian of all people would know this was offensive and upsetting. His instinct was to correct her but he didn’t quite know how to do it. I’m glad he held back and waited to talk to me after school.

We discussed the recent passage of Nebraska’s LB 343 (amended into LB 23), which passed and was signed into law by the Governor on June 4, 2013.

The term “mental retardation” in Nebraska statutes has now been replaced with the term “intellectual disability.”

My son and I found and printed the detailed history of the bill.

He took the printout to school today and was still inclined to challenge the librarian. I explained that while I completely understand his righteous fury, we should first try to educate her in a non-combative way. Once she is armed with this information, we fully expect her to amend her mistake. If she fails to incorporate this thoughtfully presented information into her curriculum, then, I’ve agreed, my son has full permission to throw down the gauntlet.

I am happy to share that my son and his librarian had an open and positive encounter. He assured her that we do not think she uses the word cavalierly. My son just wants us to never use that word, even to repeat what is in a book. After all, we don't (at least in primary and secondary education, I hope) actually pronounce another particularly painful word when discussing Huckleberry Finn. We acknowledge that there are some words that should never be used again. Period.

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