Mikulski Law Strikes 'Mentally Retarded' Term from Federal Lexicon

Rosa’s Law strikes “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal education, health and labor laws

WASHINGTON (October 5, 2010)—U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D- Md.) today announced that President Obama has signed Rosa’s Law, legislation that will eliminate the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal education, health and labor laws.

“This law takes ‘mentally retarded’ out of the federal law books and replaces it with ‘intellectual disability,’ a change that will have a positive effect on more than 6 million Americans,” Senator Mikulski said. “I have always said that my best ideas come from listening to people and the stories of their lives, and this law is an example of that in action.”

Senator Mikulski introduced Rosa’s Law in November 2009. The law is named after Rosa Marcellino, a child from Edgewater, Maryland. Senator Mikulski met Rosa’s mom at a school in Anne Arundel County. Nina Marcellino said her youngest child, who has Down syndrome, had been labeled as a child with mental retardation in her Individual Education Plan at school. Nina didn’t allow the “R-word” in her house and none of Rosa’s three siblings used that word to describe their sister.

Nina teamed up with other parents and their Maryland delegate, Ted Sophocleus, who agreed to hold a hearing to change the terminology in Maryland State Law. At the hearing, Rosa’s 11-year-old brother urged members of the General Assembly to change the terminology because, he said, “What you call people is how you treat them.”

Senator Mikulski promised Rosa’s mom that if the law passed in Maryland, she would fight on the Senate floor to change the terminology in federal law books. Rosa’s Law passed the Maryland General Assembly a few weeks later, and was signed by Governor Martin O’Malley in April 2009.

“Just like Rosa’s Law hit a chord in Maryland, it hit a chord in the U.S. Senate,” Senator Mikulski said. “This law is about families fighting for the respect and dignity of their loved ones. It was driven by a passion for social justice and compassion for the human condition. And it’s a perfect example of citizen advocacy.”

Source: Office of Senator Barbara Mikulski

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