NSAA reverses decision; will allow panhandle student to deliver speech

Michael Barth

After originally denying a Gordon-Rushville student the right to deliver his state championship speech during a taping of the state's "Best of the Best" telecast on NET Television, the Nebraska School Activities Association has changed their mind.

The NSAA in a prepared press release said that they "were encouraged by the amount of support for (Gordon-Rushville senior Michael) Barth and freedom of speech. The Executive Director in collaboration with the NSAA Board of Directors, Nebraska Educational Television and Gordon-Rushville High School administration has made the decision to allow Michael to deliver his poetry interpretation as originally performed at the NSAA Speech Championships."

In the release, NSAA 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. The NSAA will continue to advocate for all students and promote equitable opportunities through activity participation."

Barth won first place at both the state and district Class C-1 contests in Kearney and Gering last month.

Barth performed combined lyrics from Macklemore's hit single "Same Love," which addresses the issue of gay and lesbian rights, and a poem called "Swingset" by Andrea Gibson from Boulder, Colorado, which addresses gender identity through the eyes of a child.

Blanford-Green originally said that the speech was "too controversial," and didn't want the potential controversy to overshadow the achievements of the students.

However Wednesday afternoon, David Feingold, NET's Assistant General Manager of content says NET is prepared to broadcast "whichever selection" he chooses to perform during Thursday's taping.

Blanford-Green said that she notified the school that Barth would not be able to present his speech, but she asked them to have him present a different speech for the NET taping.

Her decision has outraged many in the speech community. They began a Facebook page that was over 1,450 members in just hours after being launched, encouraging people to contact the NSAA and members of the media.

The Best of the Best program will air on NET 1 on Sunday, April 20th at 8 a.m. Mountain Time.

© 2014 Rural Radio Network. All rights reserved. Republishing, rebroadcasting, rewriting, redistributing prohibited. Copyright Information