Kids Who Labeled Students 'Mentally Retarded' In Yearbook Shouldn't Be Judged Too Harshly (VIDEO)

mequite high schoolI can honestly say that I would be furious if I were one of the parents whose special needs child was referred to as "mentally retarded" in the Mesquite High School yearbook. Furious. So I think the Texas school did the right thing by pulling all the yearbooks when the offending language was found (in a section meant to "honor" the special needs students, by the way), no matter how long the rest of the kids have to wait for an edited version to be printed.

I can also honestly say, as someone who worked on her high school newspaper and yearbook, I'm kind of amazed that more yearbooks don't get published with, and subsequently pulled for, offensive language.

Why? Because teenagers are in charge of putting yearbooks together! And teenagers don't know what they're doing half the time!

Yes, there's generally a faculty moderator involved on some level, but chances are that teacher has a ton of other responsibilities and proofreading the yearbook isn't going to be top-priority.

How do I know this? Let me tell you a little story about a decapitated nun ...

Well, sort of. It was my senior year of high school and, quite frankly, our FOOTBALL obsessed student body gave not a whit about the school newspaper, which is why our skeleton staff of gumshoe reporters got to do pretty much whatever we wanted with the thing. On this particular occasion, what we wanted was to cut the head of our principal, Sister Grumpypants, out of one photo and paste it on to another photo of the pile of stuffed animals donated for our holiday toy drive. (These were the days before Photoshop, mind you, so there were actual scissors and paste involved.) Bwahahah! Like our own secret version of Where's Waldo? Hey, that teddy bear has the head of a nun!

Anyway, our "moderator" (a frazzled Physics teacher) didn't even notice. Didn't even notice! We would've gotten away with the prank no prob if some goody-two-shoes at the off-site press our school used didn't double check before the paper went to print.

See what happens when teens are in charge?

In the case of the Mesquite yearbooks, I'm going to guess that the kid or kids responsible for the hurtful terminology didn't even realize they were being insensitive. The original passage didn't seem like it was intended to be cruel, it was just ignorant:

"Some of the disabilities the students in the Special Education Program have are being blind, deaf or non-verbal or being mentally retarded."

See what I mean? Poorly written with outdated language, but probably not an intentionally hateful act.

So I think the school did everything they could by issuing a "heartfelt" apology to families of the special needs students and ordering a re-print. 

But should the students be condemned for the slip-up? Not really. Chastised, perhaps. But let's put this one in perspective.

Do you think the teenagers who put the words "mentally retarded" in the yearbook meant to be cruel?


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nonmember avatar skipper

My daughter started kindergarten this year and she is severely disabled. If she was called mentally disabled in her yearbook at any age I would be absolutely devastated and furious! It is not okay. It does not matter who put it in the yearbook, student or not.

Freela Freela

Although it has become a socially unacceptable and un-pc term, 'mental retardation' is still a DSM IV diagnosis code, so the students may have used it very unknowingly and innocently.  Medical jargon seems to be one of the last areas to catch up to political correctness.

Terri Woods

I agree with Skipper. Why even label in the first place. Next will they add 'Children of broken homes', 'Kids who take drugs', 'Kids who have IBS'? Our children have names and strengths and weaknesses. Yearbooks are just for the memories. And I would hope they would focus on the good ones.

Heather Lynn Becvar

These are high school students [and usually Seniors]. They ABSOLUTELY KNOW BETTER. And if they didn't 'know any better' then they should have sought out the assistance of a parent or staff to find out how to best word the statement. For someone to use the word "non-verbal," then they have a clear understanding of what it means to have special needs. It is terrible that it was overlooked in the first place, but absolutely unnerving that the terms "BEING mentally retarded" were used.

Trisa Burgess Shirley

I agree with Freela. Having worked with special needs childern for 10+ years, the diagnosis keeps changing from Mentally Retarded, to something else back to Mentally Retarded. Mydaughter also has an ASD so I can see both sides of it. From the wording, Idon't think they were being intentional cruel and who said the yearbook staff supervisor DIDN'T see it. perhaps they did and knew it was the proper diagnosis/medical term?

Amy Elizabeth Martin

I'm disgusted that this "slipped" past the faculty advisor. I personally have many "mentally disabled" family members and refuse to even use the "R" word in a post about the word being used.

Heather Duso Johnson

It's not like they were bullying these kids (yet another term way too easily used and thrown about nowadays) and seriously why is it such a big deal?  Sure it wasn't the most pc thing in the world to do but I doubt they meant any harm.   People need to stop getting so worked up over words.  

mumma... mummajenni

Teachable moment for the students. They clearly did not realize the implication of their words. Chastise or reprimand the faculty advisor.

javak... javakitty2011

As a medical term it is correct however over the years it has been used as a derogatory term so outside of the medical field it isn't good to use anymore. My sons diagnoses is called cognitive impairment here

instead of mental retardation.

Hocke... HockeyMomNJ

I think people need to slow down on being so sensitive. I have a sibling who is mentally retarded. Is it the most pc term? Maybe not, but its still accurate. Besides, look at the context and how it was used. Its not like a hateful prank saying something like "check out the retards in room 200". There's a lot to be offended at in life, this just shouldn't be anywhere near the top of the list.

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