Iowa takes steps toward ending the "R-word" - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa takes steps toward ending the "R-word"

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Two Loras College student groups are asking fellow students to pledge to stop using the "r-word." Two Loras College student groups are asking fellow students to pledge to stop using the "r-word."
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Tuesday, legislators in the Iowa House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass a bill that would change any reference to "mental retardation" in the Iowa code to the term "intellectual disability."

This follows unanimous passage of the bill through the Iowa Senate last week. All the bill needs now before becoming effective is a signature from Governor Branstad. Tuesday morning, the governor signed a proclamation naming March 7, "Spread the Word to End the Word Day," meaning ending the use of the "R-word."

All this comes as students at Loras College are running a campaign encouraging their peers to stop using any form of the word "retarded," which has become a derogatory term.

For Bill Stumpf and his family in Dubuque, this is a matter of the heart.

Stumpf and one of his two daughters, Kara Wahlert, work at Hills and Dales, where 22-year-old Kyle Stumpf, their son and brother, respectively, attends an adult day program three days a week.

"He has Down Syndrome, but he's Kyle," Bill Stumpf said, hugging his son.

Stumpf said he doesn't use the word, "retarded."

"Unfortunately, in the past, it was a way to define people, and in the early days, it probably wasn't meant as a negative thing, you know, but it's sort of turned into that," he said.

Stumpf and Wahlert say the "R-word" lumps people into a category rather than focusing on individual qualities.

"It generalizes him to the point that they have a picture of him in their brain, and that's not who he is," Wahlert said. "He is Kyle. He walks, he talks, he goes to work, he pays his taxes. He is a person. He is my brother."

Kyle Stumpf has a job at Goodwill in Dubuque.

Meanwhile, throughout this entire week, students at Loras College are spreading the word to end the word.

"If you sign this, you're pretty much pledging to end the derogatory use of the word 'retarded' on Loras campus," one student at a table told a peer looking for information.

Tuesday, student organizers invited passing peers to sign a banner and pledge to end the use of the "R-word."

Katie Kasten is the president of Du-Buddies, one of two Loras student groups teaming up to host the "End the R-Word Campaign."

"We're creating awareness about recognizing people's abilities rather than their disabilities," Kasten said.

She said she regularly hears fellow students using the word as a negative term.

"I think it's one of the most hurtful words in the English language. I think that when people use it, they often times don't really understand the implications," Kasten said. "Often times you could replace that word with, 'stupid' or 'dumb,' and people with intellectual disabilities are not dumb or stupid in any way. They just learn differently."

As Stumpf said, "think about people first. It's as easy as that."

It's an effort replacing the "R-word" with respect.

On Wednesday, "End the R-Word Day," Loras College is hosting a group called Stigma Busters at 11 a.m. in the Ballroom. For more information on the week's events, click HERE.

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