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A high school student is calling out the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) for alleged censorship after she says a judge at a recent tournament “warned” her not to bring up former President Trump because it would be “inappropriate.”

The allegations come after James Fishback, the founder of Incubate Debate, told Fox News Digital in an interview that the NSDA, the largest debate group in the country, has been overtaken by a woke ideology. 

“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,” high school sophomore Briana Whatley told “America’s Newsroom” Tuesday. “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 NSDA must be recognized as an organization that is not allowing students like myself to express openly.” 


Fishback drew attention when he shared an essay about high school debate on Twitter, saying that the practice changed his life but has been “hijacked by left-wing politics.” 

“It’s no longer a competition of ideas, but an echo chamber that silences and punishes students,” Fishback added. 

He shared public profiles of debate judges for the NSDA, some of whom openly tell students that they will not accept certain arguments that they deem inappropriate.

The NSDA said in a statement Friday, “The 47,000 judge paradigms house (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.” 


In 2019, national debate champion Lila Lavender’s profile described herself as “a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist” who “cannot check the revolutionary proletarian science at the door when” when judging students. 

Lavender listed arguments that she will never accept from students: “fascism good, capitalism good, imperialist war good, neoliberalism good, defenses of US or otherwise bourgeois nationalism, Zionism or normalizing Israel, colonialism good, US white fascist policing good, etc.” 

Another debate judge, Shubham Gupta, is even more direct with students. “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”, which means low speaker points, “give you a stern lecture, and then talk to your coach.” 

Whatley fired back, arguing “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.”

Whatley added she was not allowed to question topics like affirmative action. 

“There was a question that was posed last year, ‘How does brave space, 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.”

Because of the “culture” of “censorship,” Whatley plans to no longer compete in NSDA events. 

“I do plan to continue to be in nonaffiliated organizations that allow me to express my viewpoints and to also hear other student’s viewpoints,” she said.

Fox News’ Jeffrey Clark contributed to this report

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