The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

MVLA Speech and Debate team’s Community Closet for tournament clothing

Courtesy Grace Chang
From left to right: MVLASD alumnus Flora Wang, junior Calista Woo, sophomore Sophia Zhang and junior Aimee Ge participate in a public forum competition.

According to the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA), the largest high school speech and debate organization, debaters should dress the same way they would in a “professional setting.” Males are expected to wear suits in a “conservative color,” while females are required to come in formal blouses.

These strict dress codes are factored into judging at tournaments, despite being unrelated from the actual debates.

Furthermore, the impact of these dress codes also varies between public and private schools, the latter of which often coordinate uniforms for their debaters and pay for their clothes.

To combat these issues, the Mountain View–Los Altos Speech and Debate (MVLASD) team has committed to increasing equity and accessibility in their program. To spearhead this initiative, they have created a program to provide students with formal clothes to use in debate tournaments. The Community Closet opens in early November and operates out of the Mountain View Teen Center. The Community Closet is accepting donations in October, located at the Los Altos High School library and the Mountain View Teen Center.

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The two co-chairs of the debate team’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) team—Mountain View High School junior Taylor Luna and LAHS senior Audrey Tsai—organized the program, hoping to increase the number of people who sign up for tournaments and the program overall.

The Community Closet is an attempt from the team to make the activity more accessible and to help overcome barriers to some of the formalities of speech and debate.

“Sometimes people don’t join the team because they feel they don’t have the resources to compete,” Taylor said. “We’re hoping the number of people competing in tournaments will increase, and people will no longer be unable to wear something that might not fit the dress code.”

MVLASD team Head Coach Julie Herman, acknowledged the financial and time commitment the debate program requires as well.

“It’s an expensive activity,” Herman said. “There are fees for every tournament that you go to, and students have to dress up. There are also requirements for parents to contribute time.”

These barriers have contributed to a lack of diversity in the debate program, which Herman cited as one of the key factors for the creation of the Community Closet.

“The demographics of the Speech and Debate team very much do not match up with the demographics of the school,” Herman said. “It is a team where a lot of students are predominantly white or Asian, and there are a lot of students who are very socioeconomically well-off.”

The disparity in the economic situations of the debate team reflects a prevalent issue in the Bay Area. Working towards more equity, the debate team hopes to expand the community closet as a resource to support anybody, not just debaters or high schoolers, that needs formal clothing in the future.

Speech and Debate President senior Grace Chang encouraged people to donate as well.

“All donations are useful and welcome,” Grace said. “Any donation, big or small, can have a really big impact on someone’s debate career.”

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Oscar Johnson
Oscar Johnson, News Editor
Sahana Srinivasan
Sahana Srinivasan, Staff Writer

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