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Should schools be required to provide safe spaces and trigger warnings for their students?

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/15/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 674 times Debate No: 101982
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
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*I copy and pasted this argument topic from my other debate. The person who agreed to debate me did not answer, thus forfeited. I am starting it again and hoping for an actual competitor.*

For this argument, I will be representing the con side - as in I do
NOT agree that schools should be required to do provide safe spaces and trigger warnings for their students.

Round 1: Accept the topic and your position
Round 2: Argue your side
Round 3: Rebuttal
Round 4: Conclude argument


I believe that schools have the obligation to provide safe spaces and trigger warnings for their students because their job is to educate and in order properly educate kids, they have to feel comfortable and self-ensure in the environment.
Debate Round No. 1


First off, thank you for accepting this debate and stating your claim in a timely manner.

I will make the argument that that safe spaces and trigger warnings are impossible to uphold, let alone require. In your claim you mention, and I quote; "[...] for their students because their job is to educate and in order properly educate kids-". My question to you then is how do you expect teachers to actually teach if students leave the classroom because they are triggered or uncomfortable with the content? History alone is offensive to a majority of students (especially towards black, female, lgbtq, or Jewish students) yet a core root of knowledge stems from history. If the class topic is about the Holocaust, for example, but a Jewish student feels uneasy about that, sure he/she could isolate himself/herself from the classroom but then entirely miss the lesson. How is that an effective way for teachers to teach? Not to mention, not all schools are affordable/free. Meaning these "safe spaces" would be at the cost of a parent's income. They would essentially be paying for their child to NOT attend class. At that point any kid/student can just say they are offended by a topic and leave, yet have it be acceptable. There are compulsory school attendance laws that require kids go to school until whatever age their state determined (highest being 18 in most states) [National Center for Education Statistic (NCES)]. That being said, who knows how many kids would lie saying they feel offended by something just to be excused from class and miss out on the lecture just because they are bored?

It is not a teacher's job/responsibility to sugar coat things or cater to one student (a slight exemption is students with certain accommodations for disabilities/legitimate and preconceived/undeniable reasons), but rather cover all the material and cater to any entire class of students. Glossing over specific course material is not efficient and is certainly not teaching. The most important flaw in mandating this is that teachers don't know exactly what may or may not offend everyone of their students (seeing as how everyone is different and comes from varying backgrounds). These are teachers, not psychics. I go to a private university for my college undergraduate-level degree. Unfortunately, my school is very large liberal arts environment. I can not get through one of my required science credit classes without some whinny student(s) disrupting my paid for education saying that their gender is this and that and to refer to them with such pronoun. Students getting offended and causing abrupt outbursts in class takes away from those who are not even offended. What' interesting about being offended is that ultimately the truth hurts. Not every offensive comment is truthful, our election has proved this to be true. Yet, in classes that are taught by certified teachers with an expert developed collection of knowledge, there is very slim to no chance of the content being inaccurate. If it is offensive and true, then that person must ultimately suck it up. Since that person can not take simple education properly, then they are not fit to be in school. The teachers/faculty members should not have to be subjected to this kind of behavior. That is a refusal to learn, not a refusal to teach.


I do agree with in the fact that these methods have an impact on education. However, schools should be obligated to let students choose if they are willing to take the lesson, no matter the consequences. At the moment the student chooses, he/she is the only one who knows the consequences and the trauma he/she will avoid. In some schools forced students to learn sensitive topics without taking in consideration the trauma caused by it. Imagine a rape survivor entering a class in which sexual violence is the subject of academic debate or a veteran just returning from a combat assignment suffering from acute post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety or depression in a classroom where accounts of a war are disputed. This would not only impact them but also would destroy their safe atmosphere they once had in school. But these aren't the only effects caused by sensitive topics. In my model UN club, we currently discussing discrimination against Islam and one my classmate got really aggressive during the debate and he became red and started to shake. We had to stop the debate because of his behavior, later he apologized and explained that he has had incidents with Muslims and were very personal and shocking for him. This shows how some subjects can also trigger dangerous emotions and panic attacks. Not implementing these methods at school will only show the ignorance of the school for not acknowledging the seriousness of traumas.

Mental disorders and the importance of a safe environment have always been oppressed and not taken seriously by institutions. Despite, disorders like post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression affect 37.7 million people in the United States. In your argument, you mention the following "It is not a teacher's job/responsibility to sugar coat things or cater to one student (a slight exemption is students with certain accommodations for disabilities/legitimate and preconceived/undeniable reasons-". These diseases are so critical that can be counted as a disability. People with this mental disorders can't control their actions and emotions. We can't get mad because people doesn't want to discuss the topic with you or doesn't want to be part of it. The world is changing and with it, it's society too. we can't allow schools to keep forcing topics that can affect an individual's state of mind. We have to take them into consideration and acknowledge the damage that can be done. Therefore schools should put these methods as a priority and start funding them, for better and more conscious generation.
Debate Round No. 2


You bring up great points. However; one important thing to note is that, yes, teachers should be aware of these mental disorders (as I mentioned being a slight exemption) provided with proper documentation. In the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 204 of the Rehabilitation Act; these mental disorders do not automatically qualify for coverage of special accommodations. []. "Not every child with learning and attention issues qualifies for special education services under IDEA" There needs to be accommodations established from before the class starts (except in rare events), to assure the best teacher assistance possible.

Since a lot of people get depressed, according to you "37.3 million people in the United States" (which I am not saying is right or wrong, but that you did not provide any source whatsoever to back up that statistic and that percentage does not really help reflect much for your argument since it is broad and not specifically addressing STUDENTS with depression but rather just United States citizens), that is why this Act prohibits teachers from making adjustments to how they teach to each student without having gone through the approved process. You can not show up to class after a break up with your long term relationship partner and expect to be qualified for accommodations and special treatment. It does not work like that, otherwise every teenager with hormonal issues will have accodomations out the wazoo. Too many accommodations are impossible for one teacher to monitor, that's why they have to be approved in advance.
However students are students so that they can learn how to adapt to real life situations. The goal of teachers is not to counsel students, but to educate them. Students can acquire counseling outside of class, like with the school counselor or a certified clinician.

Even granted special accommodations, there are no accommodations that allow teachers to not cover sensitive topics. Academic accommodations are personalized only in the sense of different approaches to conveying the material, not exempting material from being taught. These may include but are not limited to: having extended time on tests, use of a laptop/tablet to take notes, audio-recorded texts, and things of this nature. Typically accommodations are additional equipment/services to help that student learn. There are no accommodations that reduce/remove content discussed in class or covered in the take-home work/readings. Part of this protection from the Office of Civil Rights is to ensure every student has equal opportunity to succeed in school, disabled or not. So there is never a law that any school or faculty member has to abide by that limits workload/information to disabled students. Every student receives the same amount of work and there is no exception to this. For example, a dyslexic student must still read the same amount as the rest of the class was assigned. Granted, these students make up for this with their audio books and extended time. I would know because I have a reading disability that is a branch of dyslexia and yet here I am, a sophomore in college. There is no law in contrast to this that states students with certain mental disabilities can be excused from learning something in class. That's why both acts use the term "reasonable accommodations" which as they define indicates "under a regulatory provision implementing Title II of the ADA, public entities are required to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless the public entity can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity." The ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act that George Bush signed in 1990 and has since been modified into separate Acts proving that what you said, "society is changing" is not being overlooked. We are adapting to the change society brings us. We are just being rationale about what we change.

For people who suffer disabilities such as PTSD, they have that post traumatic stress disorder from experience in that field. So they are not dismissive about the topic. They know when signing up for/enrolling in a class that there might be discussion based on what they are learning. In the example of your model UN club, may I first add is a VOLUNTARY club to join (in a lot of schools it is an actual class, not a club but is still voluntary to join). The kid enrolled in it on his own choosing knowing that there would be international conflicts being discussed. Everything happening in the Middle East is so prevalent now that what was he expecting to talk about? That's honestly his own fault and his own angered temper. Even if he had justified or not reasons to be angered, he still was at fault for joining the club when he should know that this is such a hot topic. How would that be the school/faculty's fault? It wouldn't be. You can't expect in a model United Nations club, that topics surrounding Islamic cultures not to be brought up. They are not going to censor what is going on in the World, especially in a model United Nations club which is a simulation of the real deal.

When it comes to rape victims, those are unfortunate circumstances and I express my sympathy towards these people, yet that does not constitute special accommodations. It does, however, allow for the person to not attend school and seek help instead. The fact that they go to school shows they are serious about their education. They won't be turned away from learning even if it means sitting in on an uncomfortable topic. This I can promise you as I have had a public speaking class with several girls who openly admitted they were raped. Had they not talked about it in their speeches, no one would have known. Of course they did not ask for pity from the class yet got it anyways. They were still very strong in class especially when topics similar to what they encountered were being discussed.

Also, I suggest you do not word disease and disability as though they are the same thing with the same meaning. They are very different terms. There are slight similarities, but one can not be the other one and vice versa. You can read about this if you are not convinced in Disease versus Disability: The Medical Humanities and Disability Studies by Diane Price Herndl.

It is not a matter of "we can't get mad because people doesn't want to discuss the topic with you or doesn't want to be part of it," (which grammatically made me cringe a bit) but instead it is matter of the content itself. Nobody is asking them to contribute in class. We could argue that they are contributing by just being there. No one is getting mad at these triggered people for not wanting to speak about a certain issue. People get mad when that certain issue becomes a restricted zone of discussion for the class because one person was offended. Ignorance is bliss, however being uneducated is not. Society may be changing but history will remain the same.

Just because schools are willing to work with students with disabilities does not mean the real world will be as generous. So if a kid can not handle learning, they will be unable to live on their own where they are constantly surrounded by the harsh truth called reality. Schools can assist disabled people, but not triggered people. Triggered people will always be triggered even outside of school, so removing content in class will not change anything for them. If anything, it will make them much more easily offended by things.


I would like to start my rebuttal by defining trigger warnings. According to "Merriam-Webster" dictionary ( in case you have doubts is one the best dictionaries according to multiple websites and including the " [..] top rated dictionaries on Google") a trigger warning is "a statement cautioning that content (as in a text, video, or class) may be disturbing or upsetting." Therefore we cannot see these warnings as censorship, they're just warnings. In your rebuttal you state the following "Academic accommodations are personalized only in the sense of different approaches to conveying the material, not exempting material from being taught". I do understand your concern of depriving students of education I am fully against censorship because ignorance is a huge problem.However, that's another topic, trigger warnings do not deprive students of education nor censor lesson but it gives them the freedom to choose. The only purpose of this methods is to warn the audience about the following topics and prevent painful reactions. According to Buzzfeed News "They were created as a way to protect users from harmful content that may contribute to pre-existing mental health issues (i.e. sharing photos about an eating disorder that might "trigger" or, worse, "inspire" someone who is currently dealing with anorexia)." In your rebuttal and argument, you mention how stressful is when the lessons get disrupted by someone or because someone gets offended. That"s why it"s so important to have safe places and trigger warning so these accidents can be prevented before it affects the class. This method can also play an important role in the education of individuals with trauma. As you said these people choose to go join clubs like model UN voluntary, trigger warnings may help them to avoid the topics that could affect with losing all the other educational and fun parts. I do understand your positions I just think you are misunderstanding these methods and it"s purpose.

In the topic of mental disorder, your rebuttal contains abundant evidence of how institutions don't take mental illness seriously. At the beginning of your rebuttal, you show how laws like IDEA passed on 2004 and ADA passed on 1990 doesn't recognize the importance of mental disorders. This is alarming because these laws are outdated and belong with the closed-minded ideas of not recognizing the seriousness of mental illness. We also have plenty of evidence of the effects of mental disorders. According to article "Study: Doctors Don"t Take Mental Health As Seriously As Physical Health". "Depression is actually the leading cause of disability worldwide". The author also adds "The bottom line is that treating mental health problems not only reduces individual pain but it actually has an impact on physical health." It"s just absurd not to realize that a mental disorder is a disability. Things won"t change if keep opposing to these new ideas. We have to open our minds and as I said before we have to take in consideration others to have a better future.
Debate Round No. 3


Great, so far you are able to cite an online dictionary and a ranked survey list of best online dictionaries. These aren't exactly the sources I would have gone with (and rather have gone with actual .gov sources, but that is besides the point). Now that we all know the exact definition of what a trigger warning is, why next? Once a teacher gives a trigger warning, then those students who feel offended leave the classroom to go to their "safe spaces." The two go hand-in-hand, it is not just a trigger warning and that is it. Every cause has an effect. That is why I do NOT see anything I mentioned as being "another topic." It is never just as simple as a teacher saying "Class, today's topic contains slightly graphic content and may be offensive for some of you". What then happens is because humans have a natural sense of curiosity, they will want to engage in the lesson even though it may offend them. "When a behavior is forbidden or discouraged, it’s hard not to become intrigued"(Business Insider). In the book, Made to Stick, the authors, Chip and Dan Heath, write;“it’s like having an itch we need to scratch.” "Warning labels can have the same perverse effect: '…warning labels on violent television programs across five age groups (ranging from 9 to 21 years and over) were more likely to attract persons in these groups to the violent program than information labels and no label' (Theories of Social Psychology written by Derek Chadee)" (

Yet if a teacher were to be more specific in their warning like "Class, I'm about to show visuals that may offend some of you, especially the females." A trigger warning is counterproductive. If you are arguing that nothing of the lesson will be shortened or censored, then a trigger warning is useless. What good is warning people that they might be offended by the material and still continue to teach it (as it should be continued to be taught)? Let's not forgot lessons do not take up just a class period. They extend into multiple class periods, take home readings/homework, and even quizzes/tests/exams. So the teacher decides to give trigger warning over the homework assignment, what is the point? The student still legally has to do it as I stated within the acts. Every trigger warning leads into a safe space (if you argue that it doesn't then you agree that there is NO point in trigger warnings), thus what safe space constitutes homework other than not doing it? That only strengthens my point of education being reduced.

Trigger warnings are ultimately a recent thing that have not existed in the past... yet here we are today, in 2017 and having to sweeten every thing. Since you like definitions so much, I went onto (can't really be more official than The term has been first reported in 2000-2005. So before you say that it is "important to have safe places and trigger warning so these accidents can be prevented before it affects the class" just know that it is NOT important simply because history has proved that we do not need them. Prior to 2000, we did not have trigger warnings like we might today. According to a source I mentioned in the previous round [National Center for Education Statistics:], the amount of students to graduate high school and enroll in college is increasing from 1960s to the 90s. So if trigger warnings were so important, why did they percentage go up fro before 2000? I'm sure they have gone up in 2000 to now, but that is not the point. More students seemed to be graduating high school over the end of an entire century span all without needing trigger warnings and safe spaces. I repeat, they are useless and counterproductive.

Speaking of before 2000, you claim that my sources are out dated yet that is VERY false. Some are modified, but not outdated. In fact, they all still exist to this day. So, I really do not understand where you get the idea that these are "close-minded" and "outdated". They are very much still alive today and are far from close-minded if you actually get the chance to read them all. In fact, they do address depression as mental disorder, IF it is properly approved through the elongated process (as I already said this information). They are not denying it, which is what I think you are imposing. They, as in faculty members and schools, can not legally assume one is an appropriate fit for special accommodations unless it is proved through all means. Nor am I denying people with trauma can not be triggered. That's where the word stems from, PTSD. Yet also ties in with social justice bloggers. All this, I gathered from your definition source. I'm saying it is not automatically considered a disability in terms of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Nothing is. Not until it is fully confirmed through the process. Both disabilities are very serious, indeed. Only someone as foolish as Betsy DeVos would argue against that, but because depression is very common in teenagers especially, it is uncredible unless validated by the correct powers. Even a doctor's note is not strong enough evidence. That is just one of the requirements. So simply being conspicuously depressed is not enough from a legal perspective. Nobody wants to turn them down. You might just be stretching what I said a bit. All your supported facts on mental disorders are unnecessary since I said they are still considerably important and CAN be qualified under the acts. Yeah, you definitely are belittling what I wrote since I do not recall ever saying that mental disorders are not a disability. If you ask me, it's pretty close-minded to not look at the laws in play defending both our cases.
Once they have special accommodations and the teacher is made aware, then that right there is all the trigger warnings they need.

Going back to your model UN example, no one should have to give you a trigger warning about what the club entails. The club is called model UN. Before a person even joins they are aware of what this club is about. Even if you don't know what the UN stands for, you look it up and figure out it stands for United Nations. Then you research (even via a quick Google search) what the United Nations is. You can even Google up what model UN is since that's what you are interested in joining. No excuses for this kid to not know what he was getting himself into, unless you want to tell me that he is internet-deprived. Since it was voluntary, he had to want to join meaning he knew enough to feel like wanting to join. It is not that people are revoking his "education and fun parts" (which is EXACTLY what I am fighting to keep).


I going to start (sadly) the last argument by addressing your argument about curiosity. You claimed the following "[...] humans have a natural sense of curiosity, they will want to engage in the lesson even though it may offend them." I believe this is absurd although I do agree humans have a natural sense of curiosity, a person that is offended and affected by the topic will not be curious to hear it. A rape victim will not be curious to see a movie with explicit rape scenes that might cause him/her to panic. The person that is curious is either masochist or not drastically affected by topic. The people that will benefit from these warnings are people that have strong traumas, not people that might dislike the topic as you suggest.

Now I will love to discuss your idea in the second paragraph. In this section of your argument, you introduce this "If you are arguing that nothing of the lesson will be shortened or censored, then a trigger warning is useless. What good is warning people that they might be offended by the material and still continue to teach it (as it should be continued to be taught)?" As I mentioned in my previous argument the purpose of trigger warnings is not to censor but to inform the audience that a sensitive topic will be discussed and you have the liberty to go to "safe place". The goal of this is not to make a person ignorant because of other"s fear (if that were the goal I would be against it ) but to prevent incidents. Trigger warnings are effective without censorship because its goal to warn and caution the effects. Here is where I believe you misinterpreted things.

Society has changed over time and the minds the of now are very different from the ones back then. Therefore it"s ridiculous to say that and I quote "it is NOT important simply because history has proved that we do not need them." Based on your claim Women's rights, liberation of slaves (in the United States), and even all the disability acts weren't important. Before women rights were granted women lived thousands of years without rights and society based ideology history proved that they didn't need them. Slavery too, before (and after) liberation of slaves white U.S citizens saw as normal for more than hundred years that's enough proof that they didn't need them right? Same thing with the disabilities acts before the great depression disability wasn't even a thing. However, all of this happen because society changed and the effects of these issues became important. Although it might be stressful to be too sweet and sensitive some people are terribly affected by traumatic experiences. According to The National Child Traumatic Stress network ( "For students, a traumatic experience may cause ongoing feelings of concern for their own safety and the safety of others. These students may become preoccupied with thoughts about their actions during the event, often times experiencing guilt or shame over what they did or did not do at the time. They might engage in constant retelling of the traumatic event, or may describe being overwhelmed by their feelings of fear or sadness." This shows how these traumas affects students and how trigger warnings could be the solution. Schools (not college) have a lot to fix and not only in the physiological way but also in the teaching according to Seth Godin (an American author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker) and Ken Robinson (British author, speaker and international advisor on education in the arts to government, non-profits, education and arts bodies) educational system are outdated and are "modelled in the interest of the industrial age". This shows how the society change over time and with it should education.

These methods are to help society become a better one. To give the opportunity those who suffer from traumas to live experience without fearing. This would be easier if disabilities acts provide more accommodations and make the process easily. In your second argument (rebuttal) you said that dyslexic students have read the same as normal students. However, they more protected by disability acts than mental disorders. Even Though is frustrating to be sweeter and sensitive in a rough world we have changed in order to create a less chaotic and problematic one.

I would conclude my saying that it was really fun to debate with and challenging. Although is very hard to please you with sources.

Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by whiteflame 9 months ago
>Reported vote: QueenDaisy// Mod action: Removed<

4 points to Pro (Conduct, Arguments), 1 point to Con (S&G). Reasons for voting decision: Con's statement: "I can not get through one of my required science credit classes without some whinny student(s) disrupting my paid for education saying that their gender is this and that and to refer to them with such pronoun." Is derogatory to trans* and non-binary students. and this constitutes bad conduct. It's also untrue. I agree with Pro's case that trigger warnings are necessary to safeguard the wellbeing of students. Con essentially provided an "is-ought" fallacy- they argued that because trigger warnings aren't covered by special accommodations, they therefore shouldn't be. Pro made a few grammar mistakes e.g. "sources" instead of "Sources:".

[*Reason for removal*] S&G is insufficiently explained. Having grammar mistakes that didn"t clearly impede understanding of the written material is not sufficient reason to award this point.

Note: Conduct is pretty close on this one. It"s not altogether clear that the debater was insulting towards any group, merely annoyed, but I"ll give the voter the benefit of the doubt.
Posted by ChrisArthur 9 months ago
I actually just added that into my argument before I read your suggestion lol. Thanks anyways though!
Posted by Voltaic 9 months ago
I want to add on to this debate, and the con is welcome to use this argument.
School overall is to prepare kids for the 'real world'. In the real world, there are a small amount of safe spaces, so in my opinion, providing safe spaces might be counterintuitive to what schools are trying to achieve. Saying that, schools should be a safe place to go and everyone should be respectful of one and another, the teatchers and administrators should do everything in their power to keep schools as safe as possible. Of course, this is not good enough for some people. As long as the school overall is safe, and where there is no forum of bullying against someone, they should just learn to live with these triggers without safe spaces, as in the real world.
Posted by Jonbonbon 9 months ago
No prob. I'm unofficially a greeter and aide for new people.
Posted by ChrisArthur 9 months ago
Thank you for that. The second time around, I did adjust the settings so that only a specific and experienced level could accept the argument.
Posted by Jonbonbon 9 months ago
Pro Tip (because that's what I am. I'm a pro. This is a tip from a pro):

When creating your debate, in the spot next to where it says you can challenge someone specific, you can also go to advanced options and set it so the person has to have done 500 debates, making it impossible to accept. Then you challenge someone who says they want to debate in the comments. Check to make sure they're serious by stalking them a little, then edit your debate and type their username into the challenge bar. You have just effectively avoided someone accepting your debate without the intention to follow through.
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