We encourage individuals to express their thoughts, choices and feelings about issues that are important to them. An excellent example of this was set by nine-year-old Trent Briggs. Trent's sister, Megan, has Down syndrome. Curious about his sister's diagnosis, Trent looked up the definition of Down syndrome in the Scholastic Children's Dictionary at school one day. He discovered that Scholastic's definition was "a person who is retarded." Trent knew the definition was offensive, so he decided to take action. Following is the letter he sent to Scholastic with the company's response:
In your Scholastic Children's Dictionary book on page 160, the word "retarded" is used to describe Down syndrome. I have a sister with Down syndrome and I find that word very offensive. I suggest that you use developmental disability or intellectual disability instead. A website you could visit is www.r-word.org. The word is considered hate speech by the special needs community. Please change your dictionary. Thank you.
Trent Briggs, age 9
Thank you for contacting us about the definition of the word "retarded" in the Scholastic Children's Dictionary. I have forwarded your comments on to the editor who wanted me to let you know that they are in the process of revising the Dictionary and will make sure that that definition is changed when the Dictionary is reprinted. We truly appreciate you sharing your perspective with us and giving us an opportunity to respond to your concerns. Have a great school year! And thanks for writing to us.
- The Scholastic Staff
Trent's letter spurred discussion regarding the “R-word” in the Westford, MA public school system, where Trent is a student. His school developed a "Stop the R Word" campaign to raise awareness of the hurtful nature of the word, especially as it pertains to individuals with disabilities. By stopping the "R-word," society can reach a major milestone in silencing hate speech.