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Md. school official apologizes for reference to people with intellectual disabilities

Lyda Astrove said she was stunned when she heard a school board member from Maryland utter a word that she and many others consider a slur against people with intellectual disabilities.

“I couldn’t believe my ears,” the longtime advocate said.

In recent days, reactions like hers have touched off calls for an apology from Montgomery County School Board member Judy Docca, who serves as the board’s vice president. On Tuesday, Docca spoke out at a meeting.

“I have to apologize to my colleagues and to staff for using a term that I should not have used in July,” she said as the school board met. “I referred to myself as being retarded because I forget everything. . . . I really regret having done that, and there is no excuse for it. So, I just wanted you to know that I do apologize.”

It was a stark moment in a school system that prides itself on diversity and inclusion, and it sparked a conversation about use of the derogatory word. While Docca’s colleagues spoke of accepting her apology, the issue was not fully resolved in the community.

“This one fell flat and wasn’t enough,” Astrove said. “I didn’t hear her apologize to the children.”

A school district spokesman said Docca declined an interview request made Tuesday by The Washington Post.

Jeanne Taylor, special education committee chair for the countywide council of parent-teacher associations, wrote the board Friday, saying that she was appalled by the use of such a hurtful word and asking that such expressions be condemned.

“Over the years, the “R” word, originally used as a clinical term, has become a form of derision, similar to ‘moron’ or ‘idiot,’ ” she wrote. “The term is so offensive that various public agencies — including those under the federal government — have stopped using it.”

On Tuesday, Taylor said she was surprised Docca “did not apologize to parents and students, who are the people most affected and offended by the outdated and offensive…

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