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New pens may offend children. The talking pens, a spinoff from the popular film Napoleon Dynamite, say, “You guys are retarded.” Technology now allows our writing instruments to talk. What should they say? They probably will have the same free speech rights as you and I.

Melissa Hart, a Wethersfield mother of three, who has a 3-year-old with Down syndrome, is angry about new pens that may offend her children and others in the classroom. She recently learned about talking pens, a spinoff from the popular film “Napoleon Dynamite,” that say, “You guys are retarded.” We learn this news from blogger, Alexis Sparks. Alexis apparently came across a news article about the pens while she was looking for movie information.

Kudos to Melissa for taking her stand and to Alexis for airing the issue for further discussion. Entertainment and popular culture regularly touch on sensitive subjects in not-so-senstive ways. Fat people can offer testimony, if any is needed, on this point. Now, we have the technology to allow our writing instruments to talk. The question is what should they say? I am guessing that they will have the same free speech rights as you and I. That does not mean you and I have to silently endure the digitized pen’s rantings. We can and should speak out as Melissa Hart and others are doing when words, even spoken by a lowly pen, are offensive.

“There’s a lot of kids starting school [for the first time]; there’s enough pressure out there [to fit in]… .kids don’t need to be challenged like this,” Hart said.

“Groups all over the country have been pressuring the makers of the pen to cease production. For her part, she contacted all the schools in town, and she heard back from three already, saying that they would confiscate the pens from children if they were seen with one. Hart notes that the pens violate a zero tolerance policy on student harassment.”

“The schools must convey the message that it is not OK to marginalize students with intellectual disabilities,” Hart said.

“The pen retails for $6.95 and will be sold in Rite Aid, CVS, Wal-Mart, and Target. They are also available for purchase online. According to Gail Williamson, the executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles, Target is the only retailer that is known to be selling the pens right now.”

“Due to the popularity of the film, Target is carrying an array of Napoleon Dynamite merchandise featuring quotes from the movie. I apologize that you’ve been disappointed by the inclusion of this item in our Napoleon Dynamite merchandise assortment. Your feedback is important to us, and I’ll be sure to share your comments with our buyers and headquarters team,” said a letter to Mrs. Hart from Target.”

“The film was released last year, and it has become an instant cult classic. It’s about an outcast in an Idaho high school, and it has spawned all sorts of novelty items from T-shirts to talking dolls (the doll also says the “retarded” line).”

“According to, an online distributor of the pens, the product is officially licensed by 20th Century Fox, the film’s studio. When you click the top of the pen, it says seven phrases, which include “Freakin’ Idiot,” “Yessss,” “Tina, you fat lard, come get some dinner,” and “Sweet.” All are considered signature lines/phrases from the film.”

“Kamhi World, a novelty company based in Clearwater, Fla., produces the pens. They also make a line of talking plush toys called “Spice Mice.”

“….on the Trisomy 21 Down Syndrome message board where Melissa Hart first learned about the pens, there is a posting saying that Virginia King, Fox’s head of licensing and marketing, promised to take the “You guys are retarded” line off the product.” Gail Williamson of the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles also confirmed this in an e-mail to Hart and other individuals who are trying to get the pens off the shelves.”

If anyone knows where this story stands at this point, I would like to know.

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