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The National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) is forcing high schoolers to receive the COVID jab in order to compete in person for its national tournament this summer.
Ahead of its 2022 National Speech and Debate Tournament this June, the organization released rules for individuals attending the competition, which included a mandate that “[a]ll individuals attending any portion of the National Tournament … to be fully vaccinated and up-to-date on their vaccinations against COVID-19 per the CDC definitions.”
“This includes, but is not limited to, students, judges, coaches, tournament staff, and chaperones. Attendees must provide proof of up-to-date vaccination by May 15,” the NSDA COVID-19 Health and Safety Document reads.
While the organization does allow for attendees to apply for a religious or medical exemption, it remains unclear what specific criteria NSDA’s “national office” plans to use when vetting such documents.
The decision by the debate organization to mandate Covid jabs for competing high schoolers has begun to generate outrage among parents, with Arkansas father Jason Childs telling The Federalist the requirement is flat out “wrong.”
“By them saying that my daughter must do this with very limited exemptions in order to compete, that has put me in the position where I either have to give up my sincerely held beliefs about the medical care for my daughter, or tell her that she can’t compete based on this,” Childs said. “So there’s no right solution to that issue.”
A father of four daughters, Childs says that while he’s “not against vaccines” and that his kids “are fully vaccinated against all the required things for their school,” he believes the lack of “longitudinal data” on the jabs is concerning.
“Everyone was like, ‘Well, you know, you get the flu vaccine, or you get the measles vaccine,’ and I’m like, yes, because those are diseases that kill children or make them seriously ill and [those] vaccines have been available for [many] years,” he said. “So, it’s not that I’m against vaccines, it’s that I’m against things that are unknowable, especially with the age of my children.”
Childs went on to detail numerous exchanges he had with NSDA officials about the mandate, noting the failure of the organization to specifically address his concerns.
“I emailed their general inquiry line and was given what seemed to be just a boilerplate response,” he said. “I replied and said this is an unsatisfactory answer, at which point the director of the NSDA [Scott Wunn] emailed me directly with a little more amplifying remarks, but basically just gave the same answer rephrased.”
“I wanted detailed citations as to why they chose what they chose,” Childs continued. “He replied and said that they consulted with the CDC and the University of Nebraska Medical System … but didn’t say what other things were considered, just that this [policy] most broadly protects the participants.”
A waiver for individuals planning to attend the summer tournament was filed by the superintendent of the school district where Childs’s daughter attends, but was denied by the NSDA.
As has been well-documented since Covid-19 emerged, the risk for children who contract COVID-19 is extremely low. Those younger than 18 represent approximately 950 (0.097 percent) of the nation’s 979, 163 Covid-related deaths as of March 30, 2022. Most recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered its official Covid death count down by more than 72,000 due to a “coding logic error,” which included 416 falsely labeled pediatric deaths.
While NSDA is offering competing students who do not attend in-person an online option, the virtual events act as a facade for the main competition. As noted by Childs, the offerings of online events are limited in scope and do not run alongside the in-person tournament in Louisville.
“If [my daughter] were to not compete [in-person], her position would be given to an alternate and the two events in which she is qualified are not offered in the supplemental tournament,” he said. “[The NSDA] keeps referencing this supplemental event, however, it is not the main event. It is not the specific debate disciplines for which she had qualified.”
According to the debate organization’s website, the online supplementary events are set to take place June 2-4, which is nearly a full two weeks before the main in-person competition in Louisville that runs from June 12-17.
The National Speech and Debate Association did not respond to The Federalist’s multiple requests for comment on the rationale behind its unprecedented medical mandate.
Among the NSDA’s numerous sponsors for its summer tournament is The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, which works with NSDA “to provide additional opportunities” for NSDA members. Listed as an official partner of the speech and debate organization, the Reagan Foundation hosts a national debate championship for “the top two extemporaneous speakers from the [NSDA] National Tournament,” as well as two finalists from the seven regions of The Ronald Reagan Great Communicator Debate Series at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
“Competitors who qualify for the National Championship receive an all-expenses paid trip to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California,” the Foundation’s website reads. “The three day trip will include a private tour of the library, dinner under the wings of Air Force One, and a chance to meet an extraordinary group of young leaders.”
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute did not respond to The Federalist’s multiple requests for comment on its partnership with an organization denying fundamental liberties to would-be competitors.
Shawn Fleetwood is an intern at The Federalist and a senior at the University of Mary Washington. He also serves as a state content writer for Convention of States Action and his work has been featured in numerous outlets, including RealClearPolitics, RealClearHealth, and Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnFleetwood