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TribBlog: Disability Rights Group Scolds SBOE Member

Disability rights advocates say State Board of Education member David Bradley's comment to the Texas Tribune — "If you sit on the mental health commission, do you have to be retarded?" — is offensive and uninformed.

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Disability rights advocates on Tuesday chastised State Board of Education member David Bradley, who was quoted in a Texas Tribune article on Monday asking hypothetically, "If you sit on the mental health commission, do you have to be retarded?"

The story raised questions about whether SBOE members with no financial experience should be overseeing Texas' $23 billion Permanent School Fund. Mike Bright, executive director of The Arc of Texas, said Bradley's comment wasn't just insensitive, but that it indicated Bradley may not be qualified to make decisions for special education students and that he doesn't understand the difference between "mental retardation and mental illness."

"It appears that at least one SBOE member may not have the requisite knowledge to be making decisions regarding the education of students with disabiltiies," Bright said. "This statement at a minimum shows insensitivity and may also show his lack of knowledge about the very students [students with disabiltiies] he is charged with ensuring receive a free, appropriate public education."

The Arc and many other disability rights groups are working hard to change public perceptions and word choice surrounding intellectual and developmental disabilities. Bright's letter implores Bradley and others to "adopt the use of new, more respectful terminology." 

It's worth noting that yesterday's politically correct term is today's offensive slur. The Arc got its start 50 years ago as the NARC — the National Assocation For Retarded Children.

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