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Belonging and Inclusion Station

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What is a Belonging and Inclusion Station? 

The Belonging and Inclusion Station (BIS)—formerly Equity Office—exists to address violations of harassment and discrimination policies and provide a safe space for individuals who report harassment and discrimination incidents at NSDA district and national tournaments. 

NSDA Belonging and Inclusion Station

What is the purpose of a Belonging and Inclusion Station?

The BIS may serve as a resource for any student, coach, judge, or official participating at an NSDA-sponsored tournament. Complaints may be filed if an individual feels as if an instance of harassment and/or discrimination has occurred. Examples include:

    • Perceived discriminatory practice on the basis of (but not limited to) race/color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity/expression, age, disability, sexual orientation, and/or veteran or military status.
    • Perceived retaliation, harassment, or intimidation due to an individual’s filing of a complaint or participating in an intake regarding a violation of the NSDA’s harassment and discrimination policies.

Want to implement a Belonging and Inclusion Station at your next tournament? We have all of the information you need!

Find answers to your questions, helpful resources, and more with the BIS Development and Implementation Guide.

Belonging and Inclusion Advocate Training

Advocate Training

Join Dr. Paul Porter, NSDA Director of DEI, and Lauren Burdt, NSDA Director of Competition and Events, and learn everything you need to know about becoming a Belonging & Inclusion Advocate!

The Belonging and Inclusion Advocate (BIA) is a designated member of the tournament staff who represents the Belonging and Inclusion Station. Advocates serve as the first point of contact for tournament attendees with inquiries related to harassment and discrimination.

Related Definitions

About the Belonging and Inclusion Advocate

About the Belonging and Inclusion Advocate

Belonging and Inclusion Advocates (formerly known as Equity Officers) are a distinct set of people that provide a first point of contact for tournament attendees with inquiries related to harassment and discrimination. Given the potential magnitude of their role, Belonging and Inclusion Advocates should be distinct from individuals with other roles at your tournament. In other words, to the highest degree possible, your Belonging and Inclusion Advocate should not also be a judge, tournament directors, tabroom staff, etcDepending on the size and complexity of your tournament, you may want several Belonging and Inclusion Advocates. In general, we recommend at least two dedicated individuals and then scaling up as appropriate and possible. 

At the National Speech & Debate Tournament, Belonging and Inclusion Advocates are chosen based on previous experience with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in relation to human resources or education settings. They are also chosen to reflect the diversity of our student population. You may wish to speak with your school district about the availability of school counselors, human resource professionals, and diversity, equity, and inclusion professionals. We pair individuals with complementary skill sets and, whenever possible, try to have Belonging and Inclusion Advocates work together as a team to ensure multiple perspectives are heeded. 

Ideally, a Belonging and Inclusion Advocate will have some (or several) of the following qualifications or characteristics:

1.   Prior speech and debate experience
2.   Ability to gain the trust of the speech and debate community
3.   Possess outstanding interpersonal communication skills
4.   Committed to a safe and equitable environment
5.   Skilled at conflict de-escalation
6.   Trained on intercultural communication competence
7.   Trained on harassment and discrimination, especially in the context of adolescent school environments 
8.   Prior experience working with K-12 students and educators
9.   Experience with counseling or trauma-informed teaching practices
10. Understanding and experience with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
11.  Experience as a Title IX investigator 
12.  Experience in human resources

Belonging and Inclusion Advocates must complete a cultural competence training short course with emphasis multicultural knowledge, awareness, and skill as well as how to address interpersonal communication barriers.

Interested in becoming a Belonging and Inclusion Advocate? Register for one of our upcoming trainings and become a certified BIA!

Related Definitions

Intake Process

Note: This section outlines the process for intake, inquiry, and resolution used for the BIS at NSDA district and national tournaments. Other tournaments are encouraged to adopt or adjust this model to suit their needs. Please refer to your school district administration regarding appropriate actions in response to harassment and discrimination violations.

The following process will be employed whenever a complainant visits the BIS:

  1. The complainant meets with a Belonging and Inclusion Advocate (BIA) to express concern about behavior perceived as in violation of the NSDA harassment and discrimination policies. The BIA provides support to the complainant (if and when appropriate). Note: All conversations between the BIAs and students (whether that student was the complainant, a witness to the allegation, or the alleged offender) should have a supervising adult present. Students should be asked if they feel comfortable with their supervising adult being contacted.
    • If the student is not comfortable, OR if the report concerns actions by their supervising adult, OR if the supervising adult is unreachable, the BIA should contact a parent or guardian. Parents/guardians are given the option to have the BIA inform the supervising adult at the tournament of the situation. 
  2. The BIA asks if the complainant would like to fill out an intake form.
    • If the complainant answers yes, the BIA shares the link to the intake form.
    • If the complainant answers no, the BIA offers additional supportive measures.
  3. The inquiry is conducted (as outlined in the next section). 
  4. The BIA recommends a corrective course of action.
  5. The BIA writes up a summary report and sends it to the NSDA Director of DEI.

Inquiry

Upon receipt of a written grievance, the BIA will gather information about the incident. They will speak with the complainant and their supervising adult, as well as any available witnesses. If applicable, the BIA will conduct meetings with the respondent separately and privately.

Note: If the violation is made by the tournament director, the complainant should contact NSDA staff, who would then identify someone from the tournament committee (from an unaffiliated school) to run the inquiry.

Resolution

After gathering information from all parties and witnesses, the BIA will share findings and recommend an appropriate course of action. These actions may fall under one of the following levels:  

LEVEL I

Intervention and Support

(Behavior not considered to be egregious or in violation of the NSDA Code of Conduct or local/federal laws) 

The BIA and/or NSDA Director of DEI (or appropriate NSDA district leader) offers support to the complainant. The respondent receives a verbal warning and is instructed on how to address the behavior and ensure that it does not happen again.

LEVEL II

One and Only Warning

(Behavior potentially in violation of the NSDA Code of Conduct, but not in violation of local/federal laws, and/or repeated Level I violations) 

The NSDA Director of DEI and/or NSDA Executive Director (or appropriate NSDA district leader) will issue a written warning to the respondent, explaining that any continuance of inappropriate behavior may result in a sanction from the NSDA.

LEVEL III

Sanction

(Behavior in violation of the NSDA Code of Conduct and/or local/federal laws, and/or repeated Level I or Level II violations) 

The NSDA Executive Director and/or NSDA Board of Directors will provide sanction to the respondent as well as send a letter of violation to the respondent’s guardian and/or supervisor. (If at the district tournament, district leaders will consult the national office before making a decision on sanction.) Note: As written in the NSDA harassment/discrimination policy, “Individuals who are found to have violated this policy will be subject to the full range of sanctions, up to and including removal from the tournament premises.”

 

 

Level Example of Violation Course of Action – District Tournament (National Qualifier) Course of Action – National Tournament

LEVEL I

Intervention and Support

  • Inappropriate comments or jokes of a racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. nature
  • Potentially inappropriate language based on an understanding of what is culturally appropriate or a norm for one area vs another. For example, someone referring to another individual as a “sweetie” saying that it is the norm in their area.
  • Meet with BIA and/or NSDA district leader
  • Verbal warning
  • Instruction on how to address behavior and prevent repeat behavior
  • Meet with the BIA and/or NSDA Director of DEI
  • Verbal warning
  • Instruction on how to address behavior and prevent repeat behavior

LEVEL II

One and Only Warning

  • Perceived inappropriate contact or communication from a judge or coach to another tournament participant. This contact might be email outreach, private message through social media prior to or during the tournament, etc.
  • Repeated Level I violations.
  • First and Final Warning from NSDA district leader
  • Letter to respondent’s guardian and/or supervisor (if there are potential Title IX implications)
  • First and Final Warning from the NSDA Director of DEI and/or Executive Director
  • Letter to respondent’s guardian and/or supervisor (if there are potential Title IX implications)

LEVEL III

Sanction 

  • Sexual harassment or assault
  • Physical violence against another tournament participant
  • Repeated Level I or Level II violations
  • District leader consults with the national office on appropriate sanction
  • Letter to respondent’s guardian and/or supervisor
  • Sanction from NSDA Executive Director and/or Board of Directors
  • Letter to respondent’s guardian and/or supervisor

Note: In the event of sexual assault or violence, the BIA should contact law enforcement immediately. 

Appeal

Should a respondent disagree with the proposed course of action, they may request an appeal. 

  • If the appeal involves a decision made prior to the NSDA tournament, the appeal must be communicated to the NSDA national office in writing (including virtually) promptly. The NSDA will render a decision within a reasonable time frame. 
  • If the appeal involves a decision made during the NSDA tournament, the appeal must be communicated to the NSDA national office in writing (including virtually) promptly. The NSDA will render a decision within a reasonable time frame. 

Note: The NSDA’s decision shall be final. Any reported behavior taking place prior to the NSDA tournament will be considered should additional complaints be received about the respondent at the NSDA tournament. 

Note: The BIS is a resource designed to levy corrective action for violations of harassment and discrimination policies at your tournament. This does not preclude additional inquiries and/or corrective actions. You may want to consider providing documentation of violations to the respondent’s school principal or school district—especially if the violation carries Title IX implications. 

Belonging and Inclusion Station FAQs

What do I do if I’ve been harassed or discriminated against at the tournament?
  • Tell an adult immediately—either your coach, parent, or adult in the tournament office.
  • Write down the details of the incident. 
  • Go to the tournament office and let them know that you would like to talk to the Belonging and Inclusion Advocate (BIA).
What can I expect from the BIA?
  • The BIA will listen to you without judgment and help you work through the problem. 
  • The BIA will listen as you discuss the incident and ask if you’d like to fill out an intake form.
  • Note: All interactions between the BIA and students must include an additional supervising adult, so please bring your coach, parent, or tournament official with you.
What happens when I fill out an intake form?
  • The incident will be subject to our intake process—including conversations with the respondent and any witnesses. 
  • After gathering information from all parties and witnesses, the BIA will share findings and recommend an appropriate course of action ranging from finding no violation of the harassment and discrimination policy, to an apology, to removal from the tournament, or to contacting authorities.
What if the harassment or discrimination happens on the bus to/from the tournament or at the hotel if it’s an overnight stay?
  • Tell an adult immediately—either your coach, parent, or adult in the tournament office.
  • Write down the details of the incident.
  • Note: Incidents taking place outside of the tournament dates fall outside of the NSDA’s purview and should be handled by the schools involved. This may include contacting the school(s) administration.
What constitutes harassment and/or discrimination?

The NSDA defines discrimination as treatment of a person (favorably or less favorably) than another person or persons based on characteristics including, but not limited to race, color, religion, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, citizenship, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by any applicable federal, state, or local law. The NSDA defines harassment as unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s participation at the district and/or national tournament (e.g., name-calling, graphic or written statements—including the use of cell phones or the internet, conduct that may be physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating). 

Where do I go for a rule violation?

Any concerns regarding violation of competitive rules should be directed to the tournament tab staff or tournament office. Should any violations of rules also contain harassment/discrimination policy violations, the issue will be triaged by the tab staff or tournament office to the Belonging and Inclusion Station (BIS) to address those elements.