Another Form of Hate

Family Upset About Sign In Neighbor's Yard

Sam Penrod reporting

A cardboard sign is hanging in a tree, directed at a boy with developmental disabilities, and the boy's mother isn't happy.

Neighbor: "I'm not taking the sign down, last night was the first night of peace we've got in a long ----- time."

Carrie Heaton, Colton's Mother: "They've put up this sign now, that we feel is very discriminatory against my son."

The cardboard sign is hanging in a tree in the Central Utah town of Nephi.

It is also being denounced tonight by advocates for the disabled.

The boy's family noticed the sign pointed at their home on Wednesday night, and tonight it is still there. That's despite our visit to the neighbors who put it up.

Advocates for the disabled are outraged, calling it insensitive and in the same category as a racial slur.
Carrie Heaton, Nephi Resident: "You are a good guy."

Colton Heaton: "Yes I'm a good guy

Carrie Heaton, Nephi Resident: "Yes you are... Pats"

13-year-old Colton Heaton is developmentally delayed. His mother says he is more like a three year old.

Carrie Heaton, Nephi Resident: "He looks normal but once you start talking to him, you can see he has these problems and he's just a loving little guy, he thinks we're just a great big family."But now a cardboard sign is hanging in their neighbor's tree -- spray painted with the words: "Caution-- Retards in Area." His mother says it is fortunate Colton can't read the words.

As we were filming the sign, we could see the neighbors who put it up were outside, so we approached them for their side of the story.

Sam Penrod, Eyewitness News: "Why did you put that sign up?

Neighbor: "I've been harassed for six months, my daughter has been assaulted."Sam Penrod, Eyewitness News "By who?"

Neighbor: "The young boy, we got pictures and everything and they would not press charges because he is handicapped."

The neighbor claims Colton threw a rock at his young daughter. Other neighbors told us they have frequently found Colton wandering onto their property.

Still, the Disability Law Center says using offensive words is the wrong way to handle a difficult situation.

Fraser Nelson, Executive Director, Disability Law Center: "People with disabilities are probably the last group for whom we continue to use language that is hurtful and offensive. Instead of being someone who is mentally retarded, you are a person with a developmental disability and that means really what we are valuing is the person."

Tom Brownlee, Advocate for those with Disabilities: "When I was growing up, people always used that word in front of me and called me retarded."

Someone who knows how hurtful that word can be is Tom Brownlee, who today is an advocate for those with disabilities.

Tom Brownlee, Advocate for those with Disabilities: "I hate that word, it was very offensive and I just want them to see that people with disabilities deserve the respect that they are entitled to."

Both Brownlee and Nelson are hoping the community will stand up against any behavior that lessens the role of people with disabilities in society.

Fraser Nelson, Executive Director, Disability Law Center: "Regardless of cognitive disability I may have, I'm a person and people do not deserve to have signs pointed at them, making fun of them, scaring them, harassing them."We contacted Nephi Police and they are working with the Juab County Attorney -- who told me tonight -- he finds it distasteful and derogatory and is researching what legal options may be available, since the neighbors still refuse to take the sign down.

The Disability Law Center is planning to meet with local officials to offer sensitivity training there in Nephi.

Ryan Say:
I posted this first over at One Love blog today and it's been on my mind all day. There are questions I have and I know I won't get answers for but I am gonna ask them anyway. First they say that Colton was throwing rocks at there daughter my question is why was he doing this? Maybe because the daughter is like her parents or over heard her parents talking about Colton saying he is retarded (I hate that word btw) and she was making fun of him. His way of reacting is throwing a rock at her maybe I don't know. But to me it seems like whatever the problem was I would bet it came from the daughter and Colton was just defended himself. Next the neighbors say they found him on there property who cares he is a kid and kids do that hell my parents got a lot of property around there house in Georgia and I know kids are on it all the time playin shit that's what kids do I know I did. Seems to me there is a lot of hate going on out there over Colton all I have to say to any of them people walk a day in his shoes just one day! He will never be able to do the things that they do or there kids do. His Mom will never see him get married, finish school, have a good job and what happens to him when his parents are gone bet they never think about that. Like I said walk a day in his shoes and see then if you put a sign up in your yard. All I can say is white trash at it's best. I can only feel a small bit of pain that Colton feels I think Jimm can feel me on this I know the feeling of getting pick on for having hearing aids and for wearing glasses being the small kid in the class. Until we stop all this hate and that is what this is to me is just hate then we as Americans will never better ourselves. We need better crime laws and discrimination laws. In the Declaration of Independence is says All Men Are Created Equal that's what is says but if you handicapped, gay, a women, black or poor then your not. Just makes me sad very sad I sure hope Colton don't have to put up with hate all his life!

10 Responses
  1. Laurie Says:

    There are dumb people everywhere
    we go. Uneducated and have no
    morals. I too don't like that word.
    Yet, I am a bigger one than that
    boy could ever be.
    Adults think that since they are
    older and in some cases bigger that
    they can do and say anything they
    want to a child. Even when it isn't
    there own.
    But, God forbid it be on the other
    foot. Who knows how these parents
    would react.

    I love you both!


  2. Carl Says:

    Ryan, my only complaint is that you call the people white trash. I know you are angry with them, but calling them names makes you no better than they are.

    The people are showing the lowest side of humanity and their ignorance. What goes around comes around and it time, they will get what is coming to them.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Ryry, these people are white trash and if they are afraid of being called that they should not put up such an insensitive sign.
    I just got my phone line restored after a Tornado came through and ripped off roofs and trees. People who hate should realize how lucky they are to be normal and to have a home in a nice area. ED

  4. jimm Says:

    I agree that few ppl know what its like to walk in Colton's shoes. With the mind of a 3 year-old, he's always gonna need help from his family and the State.

    As for throwing stones, I think regardless of the reason, his folks need to take some kind of action; a fence or something in that order.

    But the neighbor could have resolved this without becoming enemies and posting hate signs. Nowadays, too many ppl lack conflict resolution skills. They jus end up in shouting matches.

    It's also a basic NIMBY issue. They don't wanna deal with reality. We come in all shapes n colors.

    Remember the Gilbert Grape movie, with J. Depp and L. DiCaprio as Arnie? That's what came to mind soon as I read Colton's story. Maybe they oughta play that movie in Utah.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  5. Jen Says:

    I can't believe this kind of shit still happens. Good thing Colton wasn't black or they would have burned a cross in the yard too. This needs to be made more public than this...has the media caught on to this? Peer pressure works both ways.

    As for throwing rocks...If Colton is at a level of a three year old he can't know or at least understand about throwing rocks at bratty little girls...

    This disgusts me.

  6. Lewis Says:

    Anybody been to Nephi? It explains a lot.

  7. Patti Says:

    That is very very sad. I hate that the neighbors have that ignorant sign in their yard.
    I'm guilty of using the word (usually towards myself) but I would never direct it at anyone else. You summed it up, Ry, white trash at it 's best.

  8. Java Says:

    This is just sad. But I find it ironic that the painted sign says "Caution Retard's in Area." They have used an apostrophe incorrectly. This use indicates the possessive. The "In Area" belonging to "Retard." Talk about retarded...

  9. Anonymous Says:

    There those who have never been diagnosed with their true mental incapacity. I've a feeling that these folks like so many others have never had, no taken the opportunity to sit and talk, or work with Colton or others in his situation, otherwise they would find compassion for the soul that will always find the world a wilderness and adventure.

    May peace find the heart of Colton and conviction the conviction of love hinder the malice of the neighbor's hearts.


  10. D-Man Says:

    Regardless of the cause of the young man's behavior, hanging an offensive sign is NOT the solution. Shame on them.