NSAA Reverses Speech Decision After Outcry

By: Brittany Gunter
By: Brittany Gunter

NSAA Speech Debate

The Nebraska School Activities Association has reversed its decision after a controversy erupted across the state Wednesday. The NSAA had told a high school student from Gordon he could not perform his award-winning speech on TV.

It’s been a whirlwind two days for Kim Buchan’s son, Michael Barth. He has been competing in speech his entire high school career. He’s gone to state three times. This year he won his division.

Barth was one of nine statewide champions chosen to participate in the “Best of the Best” showcase in Lincoln. Then he got unexpected news from the NSAA. “They still wanted him to be part of the 'Best of the Best', but said he needed to change his speech,” said Buchan.

The poems titled “Manly Man” and “Swingset” cover gender stereotypes.

Word spread quickly about what happened. Supporters of Michael created a facebook page for him and an online petition. “He was shocked. He never felt that his speech was controversial, and he’s still kind of in shock that it created this much firestorm in Nebraska,” said Buchan.

Word got to the NSAA and late Wednesday afternoon they decided to change their decision. Executive Director Rhonda Blanford-Green said, "The intent of my decision was not to stifle freedom of speech, but rather to avoid any negative connotations for individuals within this statewide production."

Groups like GLSEN Omaha say the poems shouldn’t have been a controversy at all. “To me the overarching theme of the poem was tolerance, acceptance, and understanding and accepting difference. That is what I got from it, not this whole gender identity agenda that is supposedly being pushed,” said Michael Ciche-Jones.

Buchan said Michael chose the speech originally because it’s something he believes in. He is still expected to perform his speech for TV Thursday.

NET's assistant general manager of content received word that the NSAA had reversed course and will allow Michael to record the performance of his choosing. David Feingold said the the NSAA never consulted NET about its earlier decision or its decision to reverse course.

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