CMSDL Rules on Parental Observers

The Chicago Middle School Debate League greatly values parental involvement, which includes parents observing their children debating at CMSDL tournaments (and can include judging — contact Cydney for details, cydneyedwards@chicagodebateleague.org). Educators know that parental involvement correlates very closely with, and likely is a causal factor of, higher academic achievement. The CDC is thinking about getting CMSDL parents together at a tournament later in the year (to be announced when fully planned).

It is important, though, that all observers, including parents, understand that they cannot in any way communicate with debaters once a debate round has started. Any kind of signalling, writing, whispering — any and all communication is prohibited. Moreover, parents and other observers should refrain from interacting with the judge of a debate immediately before, during, and immediately after the round. The judge is the impartial adjudicating authority in a debate round, regardless of his or her age, so should be apart from interactions with the observing audience. The perception of observers interfering with a debate round in any way — by communicating with debaters, or with the judge — can raise doubts in the mind of the debaters (or the coaches of those debaters) about the fairness of the debate competition. This is one reason why the CMSDL has a rule that all observers must stay at least 20 feet away from debaters during a round (unless of course in the case of an emergency). Perceptions here can be as important as reality.

The CMSDL welcomes and encourages parental involvement in the debate league and observation at tournaments. In order to continue to make parents the fully positive presence they should be, we ask that coaches remind their students’ parents attending of the rules described above.