DEAR ABBY: I am the mother of two daughters, one of whom is 9 years old. The other passed away eight years ago just before she turned 3.
My daughter who died had Down syndrome and many other health problems. However, that is not the reason for this letter.
My other daughter is in fourth grade, and at open house for her class, her teacher used a word in her talk to parents that I found deeply offensive. She used it not once, but twice. Demonstrating for the parents a stretching exercise she has the children do midmorning to break the monotony in their routine, she said, "I know this makes me look retarded, but this is the way to stretch." My daughter reports that this teacher uses the word "retarded" often, as if it were an adjective.
I am unsure how to handle this. I don't want whatever I say to be used against my daughter in the classroom, and yet I feel strongly about the poor example this teacher is setting for the children. I considered sending an anonymous letter to her with a copy to the principal of the school, but I would like you to address this subject in your column. If you print this, I just might mail her a copy. –- TWICE A MOTHER IN SOUTH DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.
DEAR MOTHER: It is deplorable that the word "retarded," as a synonym for "dumb" or "stupid," has become common slang (i.e., "That is so retarded!"). It shows a lack of respect for those who are challenged, and the person to whom the remark is directed may have a sibling or relative who is developmentally or mentally disabled.
Rather than anonymously mailing this to the teacher or penning an unsigned letter, I urge you to meet with the teacher and tell her how hurtful her comments were to you and the reasons why. If that doesn't teach her a lesson she'll never forget, nothing will.