Speech and Debate returns to BVH

BVH hosts a Speech and Debate tournament for the first time in three years


Kendall Johnson

Different student debaters from different schools gather in the BVH quad between rounds. Some prepare for their next debate, others choose to relax and converse with peers.

On Oct. 22, as Bonita Vista High (BVH) opened its gates, Speech and Debate students rushed into the quad to settle down for their Saturday league tournament. Teams from different schools prepared for the tournament that was hosted at BVH for the first time in three years. For the majority of BVH’s competitors, it was their first time debating on their own campus.

In the previous year, Speech and Debate tournaments were hosted in other schools after returning from the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the schools included Carlsbad High School, Canyon Crest Academy (CCA) and Helix Charter High School. However, BVH was unable to host tournaments due to multiple factors like the COVID-19 policies.

“Our districts still have policies that were put in place to protect students from COVID. Last year, we still weren’t really opening the school up, this is the first year that we’ve returned on-site where students and staff are not wearing masks,” Speech and Debate advisor Eric Helle said.

The removal of the COVID-19 restrictions allowed BVH to host an event after a three year wait. At the tournament, competitors were signed up to compete in one of the two debate events, which were public forum and parliamentary. Both debates were carried out throughout the day with the help of parent volunteers judging debate rounds.

The students who signed up for the public forum debated from either the perspective of affirmation (for) or negation (against) focusing on a resolution: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase its investment in high-speed rail. As each team gets assigned their side, students join their partners to debate against another duo from a different school, in a classroom. 

“I like the high-speed rail topic, but it’s not my favorite. However, I like that it is relevant. This topic is a current issue that a lot of people have researched and we can connect it to the real world,” Speech and Debate vice president and senior Eiffel Sunga said.

Speech and Debate president Giselle Geering presents her affirmation statement to the volunteer judge, listing her points. Geering starts off strongly on her and Eiffel Sunga’s debate against Canyon Crest Academy students Rishi Pandhi and Shryuk Grandhi.

Speech and Debate president and senior Giselle Geering and Sunga were assigned to debate against Rishi Pandhi and Shryuk Grandhi from CCA. As Geering and Sunga were affirming the resolution, they presented an affirmation statement that listed the benefits of high-speed rails: increased access to rural areas and the increase of jobs. Pandhi and Grandhi negated the resolution, with their claims based on facts and statistics regarding detrimental effects to the climate, unequal access to the rail system and high-speed rails causing traffic in roads, leading to interference with people’s schedules.

“I experienced that the high-speed rail topic is more difficult for the AFF because they have a higher burden of proof. It is difficult to 100% prove high-speed rail can be built in America and will be used once it is built,” Sunga said. 

Between rounds, the debaters returned to the quad to prepare for their next round and to converse with each other about their previous rounds. There were multiple parent volunteers who provided food donations and who worked at the concession stands to sell food and drinks. 

“I feel really happy about today. I had a great time. The day went by really fast because I was having so much fun talking with my fellow competitors in between rounds. I’m so glad that this one went well. With the help of our amazing parent volunteers, the student debaters, and Mr. Helle, we were able to run a successful tournament,” Geering said.

The teams who were competing in parliamentary debate were given a short amount of time to research a topic that was revealed on the spot, along with their side. Every team was given 20 minutes to study and research the topic after its release, depending on whether they were affirmation or negation. Once the parliament debaters formed their arguments during the given time, they headed to their assigned classroom, where they debated against their opponents, in front of a judge. 

Junior William Fowler partnered with Speech and Debate treasurer and junior Tai Cassel-Engen. The duo went against Ella Lee and Ruby Adler, who came from Francis Parker High (FPH), focusing on a resolution regarding whether or not “inflation prevention is more important than the economic recession”. Fowler and Cassel-Engen presented their affirmation speech with the argument stating that inflation reduction is more important, as it is the root cause of an economic recession. Presenting the negation claim, Lee and Adler argued that the economic recession hurts everyone, leading to a large unemployment number, which causes higher suicide rates. Overall, as the competitors went on through their day debating, they were glad to feel at home during the tournament. 

“I really enjoy being at BVH, it’s nice to have some of that home-court advantage. I really hope Bonita becomes a much more involved member of our district tournaments as well,” Cassel-Engen said. 

With only minor delays between rounds, students debated over the course of approximately five hours, starting at around 8 a.m. and ending at around 3 p.m. After inputting the results of the debates on Tabroom—a Speech and Debate tournament management system—the awards ceremony was held at BVH’s quad, where the teams who ranked high were recognized. 

“I think that overall we did a pretty good job of setting up rooms just like any other tournament and running it pretty smoothly. I don’t think we had that many delays going into this. Although I think that concessions definitely could have been more organized to start, because we were kind of in a rush with that,” Cassel-Engen said. 

After four rounds, both Parliamentary and Public Forum teams came together for the awards ceremony. The awards ceremony was hosted in the BVH quad area where Speech and Debate organizers presented awards to the winning novice and varsity Public Forum and Parliamentary teams who won three tournaments or more. If a partner group was to win three of the four flights, they win a medal. If the partners win all four flights they each receive a trophy. Award presenters spoke about their appreciation of BVH’s hospitality and how excited they are to see more events held on BVH grounds. While cleaning the campus, BVH students expressed pride in their first home tournament.   

“We’re representing the South Bay. Still being a very rundown school, we make up for it in our education and professionalism. Hosting a tournament here just lets us show other people what Bonita Vista High is like. With help from our wonderful staff, we make the best of what we have,” Sunga said.

For some students, the size of BVH’s campus was small and worn out. However, the volunteers strived to provide a presentable Speech and Debate experience to all. Cassel- Engen mentions that the league tournament was a window of opportunity in seeing what BVH’s Speech and Debate program is capable of. 

“These league tournaments are not only important for Speech and Debate but also change BVH’s image to other schools. BVH presenting organization and professionalism through this tournament will hopefully help polish the school’s image and further prove that BVH is just as respectable as any other school,” Cassel-Engen said. 

Despite BVH having an older campus, students and volunteers carried out the tournament with a positive note, with music playing in the quad throughout the day. Furthermore, as the competitors waited and prepared for their next round, they had the opportunity to eat and bond with each other. 

“We did a fantastic job hosting. I think our school community is the best that we can ask for. Being a representative host for the southern county schools that attend these Speech and Debate competitions we showed our culture through our first BVH-hosted tournament. I’m glad we hosted the way we did,” Helle said.