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'Use Another Word'

By Nancy Meltzoff

"Use Another Word" is a student-led initiative to decrease the use of disrespectful language on this diverse, suburban campus. Approximately 27 percent of the students identify as students of color, mostly Latino, in a county that is predominantly white. In 2004-05, nearly 50 percent of the students qualified for free or reduced lunch.

The campaign has its origins in an incident in September 2005. Joey Palermo-Silence, then a sophomore, was sitting in math class and a boy behind him said, "This is gay." Joey, who had long been bothered by such remarks, turned and said, "Use another word, please."

Other students in the class chimed in, "Yeah, use another word!"

The boy responded, "My bad. Sorry if I offended anybody."

Later that week, Joey was in the office of Carmen Gelman, the assistant principal, as part of a Student Advisory Committee formed during the summer.

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