High school debate team asks for “explanation and transparency” in new UIL rule change

Local News

WHITE OAK, Texas (KETK) – One high school activity has a history of bringing out the competition for over a century in Texas. When the University Interscholastic League (UIL) was founded in 1910, the first activity that high school students competed in was Cross-Examination (CX) Debate.

Since then, thousands of students have competed and given speeches on a wide range of topics and policy issues.

Competitions for CX Debate begin as early as August, at the start of the school year. Most UIL district competitions begin in January, allowing students time to prepare all of their arguments. In years past, if a team, consisting of two people, places either first or second place at District, then they automatically qualify for the UIL State Tournament for CX Debate.

However, UIL recently came out with a rule which changes this structure. If a district (comprised of several schools with multiple teams) has less than 17 teams competing, only the first place team qualifies for the state tournament.

“16 or fewer teams competing = 1st place advances to State ; 17 or more teams competing = 1st and 2nd place advance to State.”

CX Rule Waivers 2021: Posting 1, UIL Texas

This adjustment came after the state tournament was canceled last year after Gov. Greg Abbott closed schools at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UIL states that this rule was put in place to help minimize the number of people present for this year’s tournament and to follow the CDC’s protocol for events and gatherings.

White Oak High School’s debate program is one of many facing this change. Pam Lattin, White Oak High School’s Debate coach, received an email from the UIL about the change on Jan. 6, just three weeks before their district competition, which is scheduled for Jan. 27.

“We would like some explanation and transparency from UIL,” Lattin said.

To add, the team has two seniors on separate CX Debate teams, meaning only one can qualify for the state tournament under these new standards. Tidus Green and Payton Palmer have both been involved in their debate program for several years, with CX Debate being one of their favorite parts of high school.

Last year, Palmer qualified for state competition and was set to compete in March with other teams from schools all over Texas. However, UIL canceled the tournament due to COVID-19.

“This year, it’s like UIL is taking it away from me all over again,” Palmer said.

Now, both she and Green plan to compete at their district competition in less than two weeks and are asking that the UIL change this rule to ensure they can each have an equal chance at going to the state tournament.

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