Tennessee Disability Coalition has created a two-minute video response to a Williamson County School board members use of the word “retarded” on Twitter this week.
District 12 member Susan Curlee responded to a post from the WCS Citizens Twitter account on Wednesday, comparing the poster to a “twit,” and posting a definition by the online slang repository Urban Dictionary as “the kind of person that makes a retarded chimp look smart,” and accusing the poster of spreading lies and slander.
|Scott Finney explains his perspective in his two-minute video.|
The original post she was responding to gave a definition of the word “Hillsboro-ing,” making reference to the investigation into an incident where several unidentified individuals said to be Hillsboro School teachers were recorded talking about six new members of the school board elected a month prior in the August general election, including Curlee.
Several members of the community tweeted back at Curlee, saying they found the use of the word “retarded” as offensive and asking her to remove the tweet that still remains on her account. Some of the users identified themselves as parents of special needs children.
While she didn’t answer back questions for comment, she put this statement on her Facebook page, “Susan Curlee for School Board.
“I am sorry certain people found a word referenced in an Urban Dictionary definition politically incorrect,” she wrote. “I’m also disappointed a school official continues to inappropriately collude & support the liberal political group, Williamson Strong, creating mayhem in Williamson County.”
On Thursday, WCSB chairman P.J. Mezera called her language “reprehensible” in his official statement from the board.
“Although the talk of school policymaking is filled with charged emotions and clashing opinions, talking about someone using hate speech is never appropriate,” communications director Sarah Simpson said. “The Tennessee Disability Coalition condemns the use of this term, especially by an elected figure with a public platform. Individuals with intellectual disabilities are active members of our community. We have a place in school policymaking, and we protest the use of language meant to exclude us.”
Scott Finney, an employee with The Arc Tennessee who has an intellectual disability, created a video response to the incident and the use of the r-word. Arc Tennessee acts as a nonprofit that wants to empowering individuals with disabilities along with their families. The TDC and Arc are partners together for disabled individuals in the community.
“The use of the word by anyone let alone a school board official shows just how far we need to go to educate everyone how hurtful the word is,” Finney said. “We have to spread the word to end the word.”
Finney explained the campaign called Spread the Word to End the Word, which aims to eradicate the term from everyday vernacular. He explained that it made him angry, and that he and other disabled individuals were working with schools and principals to educate on the power of the word.
The state made a proactive step in 2011 when Gov. Bill Haslam introduced a bill which replaced the term “retardation” with “intellectual disability” in the state code.
“Tennessee is better than the incident this week in Williamson County,” Simpson said. “It is time to stop using the ‘r-word’ and to educate those who are not yet aware of the hurtful connotation of the term.”