Rosa’s Law and the Language of Bullying

A gray-haired man with an intellectual disability stirs something in a bowlSigned into U.S. law in 2010, Rosa’s Law replaces the term mental retardation with the phrase intellectual disability in federal health, education and labor statutes. The law was named for nine-year-old Rosa Marcellino, whose brother Nick explained the change this way: “What you call people is how you treat them. If we change the words, maybe it will be the start of a new attitude towards people with disabilities.”*


Most states have also changed their laws to use more respectful language in statutes and the names of state agencies.

The disability community supports a national campaign called “Spread the word to end the word,” which raises the public’s awareness about ending use of “the R word.” This movement is also part of the battle against bullying, which often begins with demeaning and destructive words.

*From “Remarks by the President at the Signing of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010", accessed 12/7/12.

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