Community Involvement Day is part of National Campaign to Stop Bullying, Hurtful Language
ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, the Erie County Office for the Disabled was joined by numerous other agencies in a Community Involvement Day at the Central Library in downtown Buffalo as part of an annual national effort to “Spread the Word to End the Word”. The event brought parents, teachers, and students together in an effort to raise societal consciousness about the dehumanizing effects of the word “retard(ed)”, encouraging all people to pledge to stop using the word, and also called attention to the many forms of physical, verbal, and cyber bullying and the need to eradicate them.
“Efforts like this Community Involvement Day help to bring people together to realize how hurtful and destructive language can be, and how bullying of any kind is always wrong,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “The r-word or any cruel language only demeans and divides people. When we join together and pledge to stop using that language and to stop bullying wherever we see it, we are reaffirming that we want to live in a community that is respectful, caring, and inclusive. I want to thank the Office for the Disabled and their partners for once again leading the way and spotlighting this issue.”
The “Spread the Word” campaign was created by youth with and without intellectual disabilities who participated in the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit at the 2009 Special Olympics Winter Games, and is intended to engage school organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support. While the effort’s annual day of awareness is held on the first Wednesday of March, communities and schools interested in participating can do so year-round through pledge drives, youth rallies, and online engagement.
Open to families and students from elementary through high school and from across Erie County, highlights of Community Involvement Day included an anti-bullying discussion facilitated by Joseph Chudoba, Domestic Violence Advocate for the Erie County Sheriff’s Office; a panel discussion on the effects of bullying on people moderated by Brie Kishel, Program & Operations Manager for the University at Buffalo’s Alberti Center for Bullying Prevention; a colorful and expressive poster contest; and a reading from the play “Always October”, which was written and performed by individuals with disabilities.
“Today’s event provides a great opportunity for community advocates to assemble and educate the public about language that is hurtful, not to one specific group, but to all people,” said Frank Cammarata, Executive Director of the Erie County Office for the Disabled. “We are providing awareness to the entire county that the r-word is hurtful as well as so many other words meant to demean, and needs to be considered before being spoken. Harmful language, bullying, and other negative behaviors hurt and have long-lasting effects, so it is essential that we ‘spread the word’ as far as possible.”
Sponsors for Community Involvement Day include the Erie County Office for the Disabled, Self-Advocates of NYS (“SANYS”), the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, and People, Inc.