HS student says debate judge ‘warned’ her not to bring up Trump: ‘She deemed it inappropriate’

After the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) was said to be overrun with woke ideology, a high school sophomore stepped forward alleging she had been “warned” against mention former President Donald Trump in her arguments.

(Video: Fox News)

Tuesday on Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom,” Briana Whatley joined host Dana Perino to recount her experience at a March NSDA tournament when the topic was President Joe Biden’s record on foreign policy. By her account, the entirety of the previous administration’s record had been marked off limits, and facts about Trump weren’t the only ones being scrubbed from the competition.

“In March, at an NSDA tournament before the round even started, we were debating President Biden’s former foreign affairs track record, and my judge warned me not to bring up President Trump as she deemed it inappropriate,” Whatley explained.

“If a student like me who was going into debate to have free and open conversations is being censored in this way, that is no longer debate,” the high school sophomore argued. “The NSDA must be recognized as an organization that is not allowing students like myself to express openly.”

Previously, Incubate Debate founder James Fishback had highlighted some of the other biases presented openly by judges on the public database Tabroom.com as he charged high school debate has been “hijacked by left-wing politics. It’s no longer a competition of ideas, but an echo chamber that silences and punishes students.”

The assertion garnered the attention of seasoned debater Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who tweeted simply, “Wow. Truly disturbing.”

In response, NSDA released a statement that read in part, “The 47,000 judge paradigms housed [on Tabroom.com] represent the opinions and viewpoints of the individual paradigm authors…Judging paradigms allow students to adapt to a wide diversity of ideological views from thousands of volunteer judges across the world. However, on each and every ballot we ask all judges to reflect and remove bias and unfair feedback.”

Fox News had highlighted some of the posts on Tabroom that included one from 2019 national debate champion Lila Lavender who said, “Before anything else, including being a debate judge, I am a Marxist-Leninst Maoist…I cannot check the revolutionary proletarian science at the door when I’m judging…I will no no longer evaluate and thus never vote for rightest capitalist-imperialist positions/arguments.”

Another judge, Shubham Gupta stated, “If you are discussing immigrants in a round and describe the person as ‘illegal,’ I will immediately stop the round, give you the loss with low speaks (low speaker points), give you a stern lecture, and then talk to your coach.”

The high schooler likened these paradigms to indoctrination as she told Perino “students should not conform in any way, shape or form during a debate. Debate is shaped based off of evidence, not based off of the judge’s ideology.”

Supporting her position, Whatley gave an example of “a question that was posed last year, ‘How does race-based, affirmative action benefit black Americans?’ If you notice how the question was posed, you can’t challenge the idea that affirmative action actually hurts people that look like me, that during my college application process, it might prove to be a detriment.”

Despite the position of the NSDA, the student asserted that she would not stop debating, merely stop participating in their events, “I do plan to continue debate in nonaffiliated organizations that allow me to express my viewpoints and to also hear other student’s viewpoints.”


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