As we begin the new school year, we wanted to keep you informed about a petition we received this summer surrounding issues of sexual violence in the speech and debate community. As your district chair may have shared with you, we reached out to the group petitioning and have taken some time to reflect on areas of growth for the organization.
Speech and debate is a powerful activity because it gives young people a platform to speak their truths. Our activity teaches young people to use the power of their voice to ask for change to improve their local and global communities. As the organization prides itself on providing a platform for young people, we take seriously the issue that some people do not feel safe, do not feel safe to speak out, and do not feel that our community has their back. Sexual violence has no place in speech and debate communities or in our society. We each can do our part to make this community safer and more equitable by engaging in education, holding each other accountable, and keeping the safety of our participants at the forefront.
We know that safety is a priority. As the school year starts, we encourage coaches to read and discuss your own harassment and discrimation policy with your team members. We encourage you to talk with your school administrations about mandatory reporting, background checks, best practices on hiring new people, and support for students.
Building on our work from the past few years mentioned below in the forwarded email, we are proud to announce a few new Equity Initiatives approved at the May 2020 Board meeting. After receiving feedback from our 2020 National Tournament coaches' caucuses, from alumni, and from some of our members, we will start this school year with the following two committees in consultation and/or partnership with the National Federation of State High School Associations, the Women's Debate Institute, and the Association of Black Argumentation Professionals: