Debate team challenges prejudice

RRHS Debaters successfully boycotted state tournament

Liberty+University+is+where+VHSL+States+debate+tournament+was+traditionally+held%2C+but+due+to+discriminatory+remarks+by+Liberty+University+president+Jerry+Falwell+Jr.%2C+some+Virginia+debate+teams+boycotted+the+tournament.
Liberty University is where VHSL States debate tournament was traditionally held, but due to discriminatory remarks by Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., some Virginia debate teams boycotted the tournament.

Liberty University is where VHSL States debate tournament was traditionally held, but due to discriminatory remarks by Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., some Virginia debate teams boycotted the tournament.

Photo by Associated Press

Photo by Associated Press

Liberty University is where VHSL States debate tournament was traditionally held, but due to discriminatory remarks by Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., some Virginia debate teams boycotted the tournament.

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Last year, after Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. told his students to carry guns so they could “end those Muslims,” debaters in Virginia were left with a tough decision: Should they compete in the VHSL state tournament, which was hosted by Liberty University, or should they protest?

The main problem, as sponsor and coach Kevin Briscoe explained, was not necessarily the guns.

“The disturbing part (was) he was singling out one particular group as posing enough of a threat that students at this university would need to protect themselves with firearms,” Briscoe said.

Still, it was not an easy decision: the year before, the team won the conference and regional tournaments, and advanced to the state tournament. There was a good chance this could happen again if the team chose to compete. State tournaments are so important that some teams skip local circuit tournaments to prepare. However, if they decided not to compete at states, they also could not compete at the earlier VHSL tournaments because of sportsmanship violations.

Because the decision would have such serious consequences, the officers decided to ask everyone on the team to vote. The final vote came down to approximately 3 to 1 students choosing not to compete. As a result, the RRHS debate team joined other schools- including Broad Run, Briar Woods, and Hayfield Secondary- in boycotting the state tournament.
“It was something they knew would affect them, yet they took that stand knowing it would cost them something,” Briscoe said.

So was the debaters’ stand effective?

Although last year the state tournament proceeded at Liberty University because VHSL was bound by a contract, the protests still worked. This year, the tournament has been moved to Cosby High School. And not only are RRHS debaters going to be competing, they’ll also be hosting conference on Mar 21.

By Sanjana Raghavan and Rose Dunn

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Debate team challenges prejudice