A Highland Park High School student-organized rally will march through downtown Friday afternoon in an effort to encourage the community to stop using the word "retarded."
The rally is part of a national campaign called "Spread the Word to End the Word" sponsored by the Special Olympics. According to the campaign, the word "retarded" is no longer used by the medical field, but is used by society in a negative connotation.
"It's hurtful to people with disabilities," said event coordinator and Highland Park High School special education instructor Melissa Zientara.
Want Highland Park news in your inbox every morning? Subscribe to Patch's newsletter.
The rally is an all-day event that includes a pledge to stop using the "R" word and a volunteer fair. It ends with the march at 3:30 p.m. from the high school to end at Nova-HP community center. About 200 people are expected at the march, including high school students with intellectual disabilities.
Zientara said that students at the high school have been reacting positively to the campaign. Many didn't realize using the "R" word was offensive, but once it was pointed out to them have decided to stop using it.
"They just don't think about it and they don't realize how hurtful it is," Zientara said. "They can choose another word."