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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 the 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 investigation regarding a violation of 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, resources, and more with our Getting Started with a Belonging and Inclusion Station Guide.

Belonging and Inclusion Station Guide

COMING SOON!

BIS Info Session - October 4, 2022. 6:00 p.m. CT. - Dr. Paul Porter

Join us for an Info Session on October 4!

We invite you to join us for an info session about the BIS and discuss how to implement a station at your next tournament. Dr. Paul Porter, NSDA’s Director of DEI, will discuss the purpose of the BIS, the investigative process, and training opportunities for Belonging and Inclusion Advocates.

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 9 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? Contact dei@speechanddebate.org.

Related Definitions

Intake Process

Note: This section outlines the process for intake, investigation, and resolution used for BIS at the 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. 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. BIA asks if complainant would like to fill out an intake form
    • If complainant answers yes, BIA shares link to intake form
    • If the complainant answers no, BIA offers additional support
  3. Investigation (as outlined below). 
  4. BIA writes up a summary report and sends it to DEI director. The summaries will be saved and may be referred to should additional violations occur. 

Investigation

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 the NSDA staff, who would then identify someone from the tournament committee (from an unaffiliated school) to run the investigation.

Resolution

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

LEVEL I

Intervention & Support

(Behavior not considered to be egregious or in violation of 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. the respondent to address the behavior and ensure that it does not happen again.

LEVEL II

One and Only Warning

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

The NSDA Executive Director and/or NSDA Board members will provide sanction to the respondent (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 & Support

A judge gives oral feedback to a student after a debate round in a way that is perceived as overly aggressive. Meet with BIA and/or NSDA district leader. The respondent receives a verbal warning and is instructed on how to address the behavior. Meet with BIA and/or NSDA Director of DEI. The respondent receives a verbal warning and is instructed on how to address the behavior.

LEVEL II

One and Only Warning

A judge makes fun of a student with the intent of hurting their feelings. And/or repeated level I violations. First and final warning from NSDA district leader. First and final warning from NSDA Director of DEI and/or Executive Director.

LEVEL III

Sanction 

Using inappropriate slurs against another person.

A judge openly refuses to listen to a speech or performance about a particular marginalized identity at the district tournament. And/or repeated level I and level II violations.

District leader consults with national office on appropriate sanction. Sanction from NSDA Executive Director and/or Board of Directors.

Appeal

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

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) within five business days of the decision. The NSDA will review any documents or evidence presented in an appeal and render a decision within five business days. 

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) within 24 hours of the decision. The NSDA will review any documents or evidence presented in an appeal and render a decision within 24 hours.

Note: 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. 

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 investigated by the BIA– including conversations with the respondent and any witnesses 
  • After hearing 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?
    • 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?

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. 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 or tournament office to the Belonging and Inclusion Station (BIS) to address those elements.