The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) condemns National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia’s use of the terms “chronically tarded” and “medically annoying” in her recent remarks at the Campaign for America’s Future Awards Gala. These derogatory terms demonstrate a lack of respect and understanding about individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities, and imply that students with disabilities are a burden on educators and the education system. While we appreciate President Garcia’s apology and clarification regarding her choice of words in this speech, we would like to open a dialogue with her and NEA on best practices in educating students with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.
We will be inviting President Garcia and other NEA officials to a brainstorming session to discuss ways in which the NEA and the disability community can collaborate to enhance the educational experience for students with cognitive or medical challenges. We hope that President Garcia will seize this opportunity for positive, constructive dialogue.